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Queen Mary students' passion takes flight

Muhammad Arslan Badr, Mechanical Engineering Student and President of the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Society at Queen Mary has teamed up with fellow students Marah Mohammad Kaddoura (first-year BSc Accounting and Management), and Trisha Mason (fourth-year BA French and Business Management) to build and market a drone for the annual Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) competition.


From left to right: Marah Mohammad Kaddoura, Muhammad Aslarn Badr and Trisha Ann Mason

To inspire and develop the next generation of engineers, IMechE hosts a year-long UAS challenge competition in the aerospace sector in which teams of undergraduates from all over the world take part. They undertake a full design and build cycle of a UAS with specific mission objectives. Students compete in a final ‘fly off’ event in the UK and there is a high priority focus on safety and technical competence that is overseen by a steering group of expert professionals in aerospace engineering and flight safety. The challenge bridges the gap between academia and industry in developing applied UAS-related activities, giving students the perfect opportunity to strengthen their links with industry and enhance their graduate employment prospects in the aerospace sector.

The challenge this year is to design and manufacture a drone capable of lifting and dropping a payload (eg a weighted object). QinetiQ, GKN Aerospace and Lockheed Martin are among the companies keeping an eye out for innovative designs and solutions to this problem.

After meeting Arslan at the Fresher’s Fair, Marah and Trisha joined the UAS Society, thus bringing their business, management and marketing expertise to the project. As Team Polaris (the drone is named Polaris after the brightest star in the sky) they have risen to the UAS Challenge by not only building a drone that can lift off vertically and fly horizontally (most drones take off and land horizontally) it can also lift and drop a 4kg payload. This means the drone is capable of lifting a wide range of useful modules, ranging from stabilised filming cameras and delivery packages to pesticides for agriculture. The ability of the drone to perform autonomous operations also means it can perform missions without the need for human control.

Helping them in their design and build journey has been Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Material Science (SEMS) who have provided them with funding to build the prototype and support to raise additional funding from the CCF Campus Community Fund (CCF). The School of Business and Management (SBM) have also sponsored the team to assist with the buying of final materials, graphic design, web development and funding for the competition days on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 June in Llanbedr Wales. They will compete with the other 17 shortlisted teams. Throughout the competition, QinetiQ have assigned Team Polaris with a professional engineer as a mentor for the design and manufacturing. Team Polaris says: 

“The UAS project has not only enriched our university experience, but has also challenged us all in ways that we have never been before. We believe that our Polaris model has the potential to break into the drone market whether this may either be in the commercial or military industry. We have met different types of people of high calibre, who have contributed significantly at crucial manufacturing stages of the drone. The team are therefore very excited to see the outcome of our collective hard work!

"As we approach the completion of our Polaris drone, we would like to thank our sponsors; without them none of this would have been possible. These include SEMS, SBM and the CCF at Queen Mary. We would also like to extend our gratitude to members of staff that have tirelessly worked with us to fulfil our needs. These include Dr Faribroz and Dr Milsom (SEMS), and Patrick McGurk and Stanley Babukutty (SBM). Please support us in the meantime and watch this space for updates post-competition!” 

Good luck to Team Polaris as they go through the prototype design and final review stages, keeping their eyes on the grand champion prize of a site tour of QinetiQ, graduate employment opportunities and networks. Follow their engineering and entrepreneurial journey in their blog.

Team Polaris would like to extend their thanks to the following departments and teams at Queen Mary:

  • School of Engineering and Materials Science
  • CCF Campus Community Fund
  • School of Business and Management
  • Patrick McGurk, Senior Lecturer in Management Practice, SBM/Director of Skills and Employer Engagement
  • Stanley Babukutty, Student Experience Manager, SBM



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