2012/13 Rules and Vehicle Design
Initial Rules Posting: 18 Aug 2012
Latest Update: 31 oct 12
Entry Deadline: 31 Oct 2012

The contest rules may be augmented/supplemented at any time during the competition
through the Q&A process.


The AIAA through the Applied Aerodynamics, Aircraft Design, Design Engineering and Flight Test Technical Committees and the AIAA Foundation invites all university students to participate in the Cessna Aircraft Company/Raytheon Missile Systems - Student Design/Build/Fly Competition. The contest will provide a real-world aircraft design experience for engineering students by giving them the opportunity to validate their analytic studies.

Student teams will design, fabricate, and demonstrate the flight capabilities of an unmanned, electric powered, radio controlled aircraft that can best meet the specified mission profile. The goal is a balanced design possessing good demonstrated flight handling qualities and practical and affordable manufacturing requirements while providing a high vehicle performance.

To encourage innovation and maintain a fresh design challenge for each new year, the design requirements and performance objectives will be updated for each new contest year. The changes will provide new design requirements and opportunities, while allowing for application of technology developed by the teams from prior years.

Check the rules package carefully as items and approaches that were legal in past years may not be legal for this contest year.  Only the contents of this Rules package, the 2013 FAQ, and 2013 Q&A documents hold bearing on the requirements and/or allowances for the current contest year.  It is the responsibility of the teams to know and follow all provided rules, the FAQ, and all contest day briefings.

Cash prizes are $2500 for 1st, $1500 for 2nd and $1000 for 3rd place.  The winning team will be invited to present their design at an AIAA conference.  The team with the best Report Score will receive a $100 prize from the Design Engineering Technical Committee.


Students must design, document, fabricate, and demonstrate the aircraft they determine to be capable of achieving the highest score on the specified mission profile(s). Flight scores will be based on the demonstrated mission performance obtained during the contest.

Each team must also submit a written Design Report. A maximum of 100 points will be awarded for the team design report.  The overall team score is a combination of the Design Report score, Flight score and Rated Aircraft Cost (RAC). The team with the highest overall team score will be declared the winner.  Scores will be FINAL 7 working days after the completion of the contest.  This period will allow for review of the scores in a timely fashion following the contest.

All submitted reports are the property of AIAA, Cessna and Raytheon and may be published or reproduced at their discretion.

Contest Site:

Host for the competition will be Raytheon Missile Systems. The fly-off is planned to be held at the TIMPA field in Tucson, AZ.  Details on the contest site and schedule will be sent to registered teams early in the fly-off calendar year.  You can check on historical weather conditions at www.weatherbase.com or www.weatherunderground.com.

Teams are advised to check with their airlines on what materials they will be allowed to bring both to and from the contest site.  Hazmat items like paints, thinners and glues may need to be purchased locally and PROPERLY disposed of following the contest.

Team Requirements:

All team members (except for a non-student pilot) must be full time students at an accredited University or College and student members of the AIAA.  At least 1/3 of the team members must consist of Freshman, Sophomores or Juniors. The pilot must be an AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) member. Teams may use a non-university member for the pilot if desired. We will provide qualified pilots at the contest on an as-available basis to assist teams who are unable to have their pilot attend.

Team members may be updated/changed at any time during the contest but must always comply with the 1/3 rule. Following the initial team postings at the contest beginning we will make a “One Time” update to the team member lists posted on the website. Teams wishing a team member list update must submit an updated copy of the contest entry form with all fields fully filled (but only the team member information may be changed). We will notify teams when the website update change information may be sent, normally in February.

Each educational institution may submit one (1) team entry.  The team members may be changed during the contest period, so schools may use an internal selection process to determine their final design and team members prior to the written report submission and fly-off.  For schools with multiple campuses in different cities each campus will be considered as a separate entity.

The number of entries is limited to a maximum of 100 teams.   If more than the maximum number of team entries is received during the submission period a random selection will be used by the judges to down-select to the final team list.

Past Year Reports:

Winning team design reports from prior contest years are posted on the contest website as examples.  Note that the formatting and content has evolved from one year to the next.  Only the rules noted in this document apply for the current year.  The top scoring report(s) from this year’s contest will be placed on the contest web site for the next year’s competition.


Teams may solicit and accept sponsorship in the form of funds or materials and components from commercial organizations. All design, analysis and fabrication of the contest entry is the sole responsibility of the student team members.


A completed electronic entry must be RECEIVED by 5 PM US East Coast Time on 31 October 2012Entry forms may not be submitted before 15 October.

Design reports must ARRIVE at the  designbuildfly@gmail.com email by 5 pm US East coast time on 25 February 2013.  

Submission of reports electronically only (no hard copy required) is new this year.  The details for the electronic report format and submission are at the end of the report section in this rules document.

The contest is scheduled for 19-21 April 2013.  The competition is anticipated to run from 8AM to 7PM on Friday, 7AM to 7PM on Saturday  and 7AM to 6PM Sunday.  Awards will be presented at 5:30PM on Sunday.  All teams should plan their travel so that they may stay for the awards presentations on Sunday.  A final contest schedule will be e-mailed to the teams prior to the contest date.

Tech inspections will begin on Friday and will continue as required on Saturday and Sunday. 

To help streamline the contest flow and maximize opportunities for each team to get their flights in the Tech inspections will be conducted in the same order as the flight rotation (which is based on report scores) so that the first teams inspected will be the first teams in the flight queue.  Teams may use the sequence to help estimate when they need to arrive at the contest site to make sure they do not miss their slot in the first tech inspection rotation.

Note:  All schedule deadlines are strictly enforced.

Late entries will NOT be accepted.  Late report submissions will NOT be judged. Teams who do not submit the required electronic report will NOT be allowed to fly.  It is the team’s responsibility to assure that all deadlines are known, understood and met.


The contest administration will maintain a World Wide Web site containing the latest information regarding the contest schedules, rules, and participating teams.  The contest web site is located at:


Questions regarding the contest, schedules, or rules interpretation may be sent to the contest administrator by e-mail at:


Questions received prior to the official entry submission date will not be answered directly.  Select questions “may” be answered in the FAQ prior to the entry submission date.  Official questions and answers received following the entry submission date will be posted on the website.

This year, the DBF Organizing Committee will utilize Facebook as an additional means of communicating with the teams during the contest weekend only. This will NOT be a means of communicating rules, FAQ's, protests, etc, but only used in case of emergencies, weather delays or contest weekend schedule updates. Additional information will be included in a contest site/ schedule email to be sent out to the registered teams prior to the fly-off..

Aircraft Requirements - General

Aircraft Requirements - Safety

All vehicles will undergo a safety inspection by a designated contest safety inspector prior to being allowed to make any competition flight. All decisions of the safety inspector are final. 

To speed the tech inspection process each team must present a signed Pre-Tech and First-Flight Certification when called to begin their on-site tech inspection.  Teams may not begin the on-site tech inspection without a completed certification.  The Pre-Tech and First-Flight Certification sheet is available on the contest website.

The Pre-Tech must be conducted by, and signed off by, a non team member RC pilot or the team faculty advisor.  The Pre-Tech will cover the same safety of flight requirements as the on-site tech inspection and will assist teams in making sure they are ready and able to pass the on-site tech inspection the first time.  An expanded First-Flight requirement, which also must be signed off by a non team member RC pilot or the team faculty advisor, requires demonstration of a complete flight including take-off, flying a minimum flight pattern, and landing in a pre-designated location without damage to the aircraft.  The non team member RC pilot who signs the inspection and flight certifications may be the same as a team's non-student contest pilot. 

Safety inspections will include the following as a minimum:

      1. Verify all components adequately secured to vehicle. Verify all fasteners tight and have either safety wire, locktite (fluid) or nylock nuts. Clevises on flight controls must have an appropriate safety device to prevent their disengaging in flight.
      2. Verify propeller structural and attachment integrity.
      3. Visual inspection of all electronic wiring to assure adequate wire gauges and connectors in use.
      4. Radio range check, motor off and motor on.
      5. Verify all controls move in the proper sense.
      6. Check general integrity of the payload system.

Throttle closed
Full up elevator
Full right rudder
Full right aileron
Full Flaps down (if so equipped)

The radio Fail Safe provisions will be strictly enforced.


In the event that, due to time or facility limitations, it is not possible to allow all teams to have the maximum number of flight attempts, the contest committee reserves the right to ration and/or schedule flights. The exact determination of how to ration flights will be made on the contest day based on the number of entries, weather, and field conditions.  In the event of a tie, Report Score will take precedence over Flight Score as a tie-breaker.

Each team's overall score will be computed from their Written Report Score, Total Flight Score and Rated Aircraft Cost using the formula:

                                                     SCORE = Written Report Score * Total Flight Score / RAC

The total flight score is the sum of the individual mission flight scores: Total Flight Score = M1 + M2 + M3

The RAC is a function of empty weight and size factor.  RAC = Sqrt(EW * SF) / 10

Mission Task Matrix:

Joint Strike Fighter


Mission Sequence:



Flight Line Order:

General Mission Specification and Notes:

Additional information is included in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

Flight Course:

The orientation (direction) of the flight course will be adjusted based on the prevailing winds as determined by the Flight Line Judge.  The flight course will be positioned to maintain the greatest possible safety to personnel and facilities.  The nominal flight course is shown in the Figure below.

Protest Procedure:

Submitting a protest is a serious matter and will be treated as such. Teams may submit a protest to the Contest Administration at any time during the competition.  Protests may not be submitted after the conclusion of the competition.  Protests must be submitted in writing and signed by the team advisor, designees are not allowed for protest submissions.  If the team advisor is not present, he may FAX or email a signed protest to the team for them to present.  Remotely submitted protests must be on hard copy (printed by the team) and have the advisors signature.  A phone number where the advisor may be contacted must be provided..  Protests may be posted for review at the decision of the administration.

Protests and penalties (up to disqualification from the contest for deliberate attempts to misinform officials, violate the contest rules, or safety infractions) will be decided by the Contest Administration. Protests submitted but not upheld by the judges may be given a penalty of the loss of one flight score to the team submitting the protest.  The decision of the Contest Administration is final.

Design Report:

Each team will submit a judged design report as outlined below and in the SCHEDULE section above.

Note:  Reports must strictly adhere to the following requirements.  Failure to meet requirements will result in penalties that range from score reduction to elimination from the contest.

  • Reports must have the University  name on the cover page.
    Reports missing this identification information will not be scored.

  • Absolute maximum page count for the report is 60 pages, the PDF reader "pages" value will be used as the official page count.
    Reports exceeding the maximum page count will be given a 10 point penalty for each additional page.

  • Report PDF must be formatted as 8.5 x 11" pages.

    • May use 11x17" pages for the drawing package.

Design Report

All section scores will include format, completeness and readability

1.   Executive Summary: (10 points):

·         Provide a summary description of your selected design and why it is the best solution to the specified mission requirements.

·        Describe your key mission requirements and design features keyed to those requirements.

·        Document the performance/capabilities of your system solution.

2.   Management Summary (5 points):

·        Describe the organization of the design team.

·        Provide a chart of design personnel and assignment areas.

·        Provide a milestone chart showing planned and actual timing of the design / fabrication / testing processes.

3.   Conceptual Design (15 points):

·        Describe mission requirements (problem statement).

·        Translate mission requirements into design requirements.

·        Review solution concepts/configurations considered.

·        Describe selection process and results.

4.   Preliminary Design (20 points):

·        Describe design/analysis methodology

·        Document design/sizing trades

·        Describe/document mission model (capabilities and uncertainties)

·        Provide estimates of the aircraft lift, drag and stability characteristics.

·        Provide estimates of the aircraft mission performance.

5.   Detail Design (30 points total.  15 points for discussion items, 15 points for drawing package):

·        Document dimensional parameters of final design.

·        Document structural characteristics/capabilities of final design.

·        Document systems and sub-systems design/component selection/integration/architecture.

·        Document Weight and Balance for final design.  Must include a Weight & Balance table for the empty aircraft and with each of the possible payloads

·        Document flight performance parameters for final design.

·        Document mission performance for final design.

Drawing Package

·    3-View drawing with dimensions.

·        Structural arrangement drawing.

·        Systems layout/location drawing.

·        Payload(s) accommodation drawing(s).

6.   Manufacturing Plan and processes (5 points):

·        Document the process selected for manufacture of major components and assemblies of the final design.

·        Detail the manufacturing processes investigated and the selection process/results.

·        Include a manufacturing milestone chart showing scheduled and actual event timings.

7.      Testing Plan (5 points):

·        Detail testing objectives, schedules, and check-lists.

8.      Performance Results (10 points):

·        Describe the demonstrated performance of key subsystems and compare it to predictions from Section 5.  Explain any differences and improvements made.

·        Describe the demonstrated performance of your complete aircraft solution and compare it to predictions from Section5.  Explain any differences and improvements made.

Design Report Electronic Submission

Each team must provide an electronic copy of their final design report for the report judging as outlined below.

Reports not following the name format or exceeding the file size will be rejected.  We will notify the team "if" the reports do show up in the email 'in' box.  If reports are rejected by the email system for being too large we will NOT be able to send a notification of the problem to the team!


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