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Friday 28 May 2021

Students flying high despite Covid restrictions

UCLan’s aerospace engineering students build glider in halls of residence

Lockdown restrictions have impacted students across the country but for one group at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), it has meant turning student accommodation into an aerospace workshop.

To ensure they completed their end-of-degree project on time, final year MEng Aerospace students created a glider in their communal kitchens and bedrooms.

The team of 16 designed a 11-metre-wide piloted glider which would fly at 20 knots and was planning to use the state-of-the-art facilities in the University’s new £35 million Engineering Innovation Centre to build the aircraft. When Covid-19 restrictions halted access to the campus, the engineering students seized the opportunity to think of a way to continue their work in their personal surroundings.

"A few of us live together so our flat became a workshop and the kitchen table became a workbench"

Development Lead Louis Frommweiler

Development Lead Louis Frommweiler, 20, from Strasbourg, in France, said: “We’d originally decided to use carbon fibre, aluminium and specialist foam as the main materials but when lockdown hit, we made the decision to make a remote piloted glider that was a fifth of the original size as that would still cover the project brief and we could build it in our accommodation.

“A few of us live together so our flat became a workshop and the kitchen table became a workbench. We had to change our planned materials, meaning we used lots of 3D printing, our textbooks became weights and lots of the team headed off into the city to buy clamps and drill bits to make it work.”

The group’s 2.2-metre-wide glider made its successful maiden flight last week at the UCLan Flight Test Area, near Inskip.

"They excelled, ensuring they met the brief, and in doing so became the very first student-led UCLan team to design an aircraft and fly it. It was a fantastic achievement and I’m immensely proud of all of them"

Dr Abdullah Desai, UCLan’s Course Leader of Aerospace Engineering and Pilot Studies

Design Lead Alex Child-Morris, from Brighouse, was responsible for remote piloting the glider and explained how the team were still working on the device as it was being transferred to the launch rail.

The 22-year-old said: “We still had some last-minute modifications to do at the airfield. We had our trusty ‘workshop in a bag’ so were like an F1 pit crew team drilling, screwing and sawing.

“It was great to see it glide as we knew we’d overcome so many challenges to get to that point. As engineers, it’s our job to come up with solutions to problems so we were delighted our forced changes worked as planned.”

The original glider would have been piloted by Dr Abdullah Desai, UCLan’s Course Leader of Aerospace Engineering and Pilot Studies.

He said: “I was so confident in their abilities that I said I would use my pilot licence to fly their glider. I was delighted to see how they responded to the challenges forced on them by the national lockdown. They excelled, ensuring they met the brief, and in doing so became the very first student-led UCLan team to design an aircraft and fly it. It was a fantastic achievement and I’m immensely proud of all of them.”

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