Design Engineering

U of T Aerospace Team displays its latest fleet designs

Lindsay Luminoso   

General Aerospace University of Toronto

This year's Aerospace Showcase featured five new vehicles.

This year’s Aerospace Showcase 2016, organized by the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT), showed off a wide range of design prototypes including a hybrid drone with both wings and rotors, a supersonic rocket powered by laughing gas and candle wax, and a satellite smaller than a toaster that could carry microorganisms into orbit.

Aerospace Showcase 2016

University of Toronto Explorer Vertical Take-Off and Landing (UT-XV) is one of the five vehicles unveiled Friday at the Aerospace Showcase organized by the University of Toronto Aerospace Team. (Photo: Roberta Baker)

“There is meaning and passion behind every piece of technology you see here today,” said Jeremy Wang (Year 3 EngSci), UTAT’s Executive Director. “One of the things this team helped me realize is that aerospace is not just about aerospace — we hope to show you its importance at a deeply personal and cultural level which is felt, but not always noticed.”

More than 100 students are involved with UTAT across five divisions, including rocketry, aerial robotics, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones), space systems, and outreach and advancement.

“Design teams give our students opportunities to foster their interests and passions, develop key engineering and professional competencies and compete against other top engineering schools at national and international events,” says  Professor Markus Bussmann, vice-dean of graduate studies at U of T Engineering.


This year’s Aerospace Showcase featured five new vehicles.

Aerospace Showcase 2016

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

University of Toronto Explorer II (UT-XII)

The UT-XII is a fixed-wing drone similar in shape to conventional aircraft. Its body is built mostly of lightweight yet strong carbon fibre, which makes it easy to repair. It’s powered by a single propeller at the back of the plane, and equipped with multiple cameras and an on-board autopilot in the form of a computer processor. Drones like this could be used for agricultural monitoring, object recognition or emergency medical delivery. The Explorer II will be entered into three competitions this year and will challenge its ability to take off, land, and navigate itself autonomously, without the help of a ground-based pilot.

Aerospace Showcase UTAT

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

University of Toronto Explorer Vertical Take-Off and Landing (UT-XV)

Similar to the Explorer II, this UAV is a hybrid aircraft that contains both fixed wing and quadrocopter features. It too is designed for surveillance and payload delivery, but its ability to take off and land without a runway allows it to access more challenging terrain. It will also be competing at the UAV Challenge Medical Express Competition in Australia.

University of Toronto Whirlybird (UTW)

U of T Engineering

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

The Whirlybird is a quadrocopter of a type that could be used for agricultural crop surveillance,to deliver small payloads, or to assist indoor inspection such as during firefighting. The Whirlybird is designed to be lightweight and optimized for autonomous flight. The quadrocopter is equipped with a stabilized camera and programmed with algorithms that allow it to take in visual information and use it to make navigation decisions.

The Whirlybird will be also be competing at the 2016 Student UAV Competition from Unmanned Systems Canada, as well as the 2016 International Micro-Air Vehicles Competition.

“HERON” Astrobiology CubeSat

U of T Aerospace Showcase

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

The satellite is smaller than a toaster and is being built for the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge held every two years. The HERON will carry a miniature laboratory, using tiny fluid channels and pumps to carry out a microbiology experiment with yeast that could offer insight into the gut health of astronauts. The HERON will undergo full launch and space environmental qualification testing as part of the competition. The goal is to launch the winning satellite into orbit.

Aerospace Showcase U of T

(Photo: Roberta Baker)

“Deliverance” Hybrid Sounding Rocket

This is high-altitude research rocket designed to compete at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition held in June of each year in Green River, Utah. The nine-foot vessel is powered by a mixture of nitrous oxide and paraffin and can fly as fast as 1.4 times the speed of sound.

It is capable carrying a ten-pound payload to a height of 23,000 feet, about the cruising altitude of a typical commercial aircraft, before deploying the payload and falling back to earth. Such rockets typically carry devices used by scientists to measure the concentration of chemical substances high in the atmosphere, but at the competition the main goal is to learn more about the art of making rockets.

As Thomas Leung Year 3 EngSci of UTAT’s rocketry division says, “Rocket science is easy, it’s rocket engineering that’s hard!”


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