2003-2004 Rochester Institute of Technology
Micro Air Vehicle Team

Flight Testing

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Flight Testing

Flight testing proved to be the most valuable design tool for the team. Flight testing revealed many characteristics of the vehicle that assisted in the development of a fully functional MAV.


Very early in flight-testing, it was determined that the team needed a very accurate way of measuring the center of gravity of the aircraft. A simple device was created using dial calipers and scrap materials. The plane was balanced at its CG on the central aluminum upright, and then the calipers moved such that the front upright was aligned with the leading edge of the wing. These measurements and the flight performance of the vehicle were than recorded and contrasted with other flight tests to determine optimal CG location.

CG-checking device

Indoor Flight Testing

Flight testing began indoors where the flight conditions were close to ideal, which allowed for easy assessment and diagnostics of flight behavior. For instance, the very first flights showed that the initial selection of the EP-0320 propeller, while producing the most thrust, was unusable in practical application. The EP-0320 was attached to the motor with epoxy, and was easily lost during flight conditions and "landings". The press-fit U-80 propeller offered a more realistic, robust choice while producing only slightly lower thrust than the EP.

Early flight testing in Clark Gym (click for movie)


Outdoor Flight Testing

Once the MAV began to show signs of reliable flight, the testing moved outside as the weather permitted. Flight testing outside brought unpredictable weather conditions and a more realistic mission scenario.

Early outdoor flight (click for movie)

Another early outdoor flight (notice the excellent weather!)


The camera was also integrated into the payload for the first time once some confidence was gained with outdoor flight.

Onboard, real-time video still of RIT Golisano Building from MAV

Very soon after the first outdoor flights, the team attended the International MAV Competition at the University of Arizona. The vehicle saw many flights at this competition, both with and without the video surveillance, where once again the team recognized some problems that could be improved or corrected on the vehicle.

Once the team returned, changes described in the Final Design section were made and more flight testing was done. The vehicle began to fly in a very reliable fashion both with and without video. More on board video was also captured.

Here are some of the more visually pleasing stills, and one video, of the plane during flight testing.

Sunset flight movie

More pictures are available on the Media page.


Copyright · 2004
RIT Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the RIT MAV Team.