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The FirePoint C3 Challenge will see three academic teams collaborate remotely to design next-generation drone systems for the U.S. Army.

Presented by the FirePoint Innovations Center at Wichita State University and sponsored by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center, the challenge develops new UAV innovation as well as up-and-coming STEM talent. Teams work within one of three areas — lift, energy or airframe.

Six teams battled it out last month to winnow the field down by half. A panel of judges selected the Buhler High School Science Club from Wichita, Pistol Pete’s Propulsion Posse from Oklahoma State University and Team Vol Air from the University of Tennessee.

The teams will compete for a combined $35,000 in funding to be used to develop their winning design.

Buhler High designed a dirigible concept that generates lift by extracting hydrogen from the atmosphere during flight – even in conditions more arid than the desert.

OSU’s turboelectric power system combines battery power with electric power produced from a gas turbine coupled to an electric generator. The two distinct power sources offer an array of choices that can be configured to complete a variety of missions.

A 3D-printed reinforced structure, the Vol Air airframe is highly durable, yet adaptable to virtually any shape.  The craft also uses compression over-molding to enhance the material properties of the original structure with thin fiber composite sheets.

“We are extremely pleased with the caliber of design, engineering and creativity we’ve seen in these submissions,” said Steve Cyrus, Manager of Technology Collaborations with FirePoint. “Not only were we somewhat surprised to see a high school team performing at this level, but it’s also fascinating how the teams’ concepts already complement one another. We’re very excited to see what they come up with once they all get together.”

After the workshop, the teams will begin full buildout of their design concepts for prototyping. Teams can pull from the $35,000 funding to secure the necessary equipment, supplies and workspace to complete their concepts, as well as invest in growing their programs beyond the competition.

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