American Helicopter Society Student MAV Challenge 2015

We have developed a low-cost, lightweight coaxial-rotor MAV capable of full attitude control using just two actuators. The vehicle provides real-time telemetry and high-quality video to a ground station which can be used to remotely pilot the vehicle. The design integrates the underactuated rotor system developed in the lab with parts of cheap helicopter toys in a custom 3D printed frame to a give a fully-functional MAV weighing 38g.

Rotor control, as described in [1], requires angular position feedback and a lightweight magnetic position sensor was developed to meet the weight constraints of the vehicle. Control and communication hardware/software is integrated on a single flight control board pictured above. Video feed from the camera on-board the vehicle is captured on a ground station laptop using a video capture device and is displayed along with flight telemetry in a separate window. Pilot commands are processed via software built on the Robot Operating System framework, which also provides telemetry logging functionality. These commands are sent to the vehicle on the 915 MHz ISM band and the system has been tested to perform at ranges beyond 100ft.

The vehicle was developed by a student team comprising of James Paulos, Erica Kiderman, Julian Mickelson and Bhavya Gupta who participated in AHS International’s 3rd Annual MAV Student Challenge. The competition is three-stage event consisting of two shortlisting stages and a mission demonstration. Vehicles shortlisted for the mission demonstration are judged on design novelty, system integration and mission execution. The mission objective this year was to perform target search in a designated area without direct line-of-sight and hover over the target before returning to home base. We successfully accomplished the mission objectives by remotely piloting the vehicle using only the imagery downlink on the ground station laptop. Our design was also awarded an honorable mention award for “flying a vehicle which was an order of magnitude lighter than the other competitors, and having a novel means of control”.


  • [PDF] [DOI] J. Paulos and M. Yim, “Flight performance of a swashplateless micro air vehicle,” in Robotics and automation (icra), 2015 ieee international conference on, 2015, pp. 5284-5289.
    author={Paulos, James and Yim, Mark},
    booktitle={Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2015 IEEE International Conference on},
    title={Flight Performance of a Swashplateless Micro Air Vehicle},
    keywords={Attitude control;Blades;Brushless motors;Helicopters;Propellers;Rotors;Vehicles},
  • [PDF] [DOI] J. Paulos and M. Yim, “An underactuated propeller for attitude control in micro air vehicles,” in Intelligent robots and systems (iros), 2013 ieee/rsj international conference on, Tokyo, Japan, 2013.
    author={Paulos, James and Yim, Mark},
    booktitle={Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on},
    title={An Underactuated Propeller for Attitude Control in Micro Air Vehicles},
    address={Tokyo, Japan},