Dedicated to the Promotion of Electric Propulsion in all types of Aeromodeling

Design-Build-Fly Heats Up at Mission Bay Park

Jeremy Johnson holds Aztec Aerospace DBF aircraft with the rest of the Team.

By Steve Manganelli

If it’s Spring, it’s time for the annual Design Build Fly (DBF) competition for teams of undergraduate College students and SEFSD is there supporting San Diego State University Aztec Aero Design. Safety Officer Steve Neu piloted the maiden voyage of their prototype airplane on February 18th and additional test flights on March 10th and March 17th in preparation for the Fly-off being held in Wichita KS the weekend of April 13th. The Team, led by Gabriella Gonzalez Ayala and Jeremy Johnson aims to do well with additional mission practice flights at our Mission Bay Park field up through the flyoff date.

There are several other Student Aerospace Engineering competitions, but what makes DBF stand out is that the rules change every year. Highlights of this year’s challenge include the wingspan being 60” or less, but the model has to fit in a 30” wide “parking spot”. This requirement translates into folding wing tips or a center rotating wing a la V-22 Osprey. Key mission requirements include taking off in  20’ under empty and payload conditions, the payload being wooden peg dolls. The scoring formula involves number of peg dolls, number of laps flown around a 1000’ oval course in 5 minutes, speed to fly 3 laps in a different mission and capacity of the batteries used in the mission.  There is a timed ground mission where 1 student gets to swap the “medical supply” and “passenger” payloads. All missions use normalized scoring where the best team earns 100% of the possible score and the others get a proportional fraction of the winning team’s score.  A 60 page paper detailing the design-development of the model becomes a scoring multiplier as well.

Of the 110 schools invited to join the competition, generally less than 30 produce a mission capable aircraft. Once SDSU’s and a few other flight scores are posted to the leaderboard, you start to see what’s possible. It’s a little unnerving when an obviously capable school doesn’t post their last mission until nearly the end of the contest : 7th place can turn into 12th real fast. Gabriella and Jeremy are veterans of several past DBF contests and will lead their team to great success. Steve Neu and I will be there in Wichita with them.  If you fly Sunday afternoons or weekday afternoons you might catch a test flight yourself; feel free to come by and cheer us on. For more details about the DBF Competition, browse around here : AIAA Design/Build/Fly | AIAA 

Team leads Gabriella (5th from left) and Jeremy Johnson (8th from left) all smiles in front of prototype plane and rest of Team after successful test flight on March 17th.


Steve Neu flies SDSU DBF airplane on maiden voyage.