Design-Build-Fly Competition

An international gathering of 36 student teams competed in the 2007 AIAA Design-Build-Fly competition. In its 11th year, the popular contest challenges student teams to build an unmanned, remote-controlled airplane to satisfy a series of constraints and flying tasks.

MIT Design Build Fly2007 Design-Build-Fly Winner from MITCourtesy of competition website

The 2007 competition was held on April 20-22 in Tucson, Arizona. The contest required each team's airplane to:

  • Fit in a 2 x 4 x 1.5 foot shipping container
  • Fly a surveillance mission carrying a dummy camera
  • Fly an air sampling mission carrying a dummy air sampling system

The final designs could be classified as:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pushed Oklahoma State University into 2nd, breaking Oklahoma's 3 year winning streak. MIT's entry, OBOSU, rated highly in the Rated Aircraft Cost (RAC) analysis, which favored lightweight designs and short wingspans. Notably the top 2 designs were biplanes. Purdue University finished 3rd with a lifting body design.


  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - OBOSU
  2. Oklahoma State University - OSU Orange
  3. Purdue University - Spirit of Amelia
  4. Oklahoma State University - OSU Black
  5. Wichita State University - Shockin’ Surveyor

A key part of many student competitions is a design report and the Design-Build-Fly is no exception. Key required sections are:

  • Conceptual design
  • Preliminary design
  • Detail design

Clearly there is ample scope to use Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) tools during the preliminary and detail design phases of such a competition. However, the conceptual design phase is currently dominated by ad-hoc analysis using pen, paper, calculator and generic office software (such as Microsoft Excel). Caedium aims to change this state of affairs and open up conceptual design analysis for all.


Oklahoma State University Testing

2007 DBF flight testing clip.

University of Washington Testing

2007 DBF wind tunnel testing clip