American Univesity of Beirut

3, 2, 1… Lift off

​April 25, 2021

Mechanical engineering is very hands on. It’s all about making things work and work better. Faced with a spiraling economic collapse, seemingly unending lockdowns, and being barred from campus labs, two teams of engineering students had to get creative to complete their all-important final year project, known as the FYP.

These students chose to build on the work of previous FYP teams who had created two versions of a remote control plane that has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability with a storage compartment that can be used to deliver life-saving first aid equipment. 



The Motivation
To make a remote control plane that could bypass Lebanon’s traffic-clogged streets, get around road blocks, and access remote villages to deliver medical supplies that could help save a life before first responders would be able to arrive on the scene. 

 

The Challenge 

With (very) limited funds, the two teams chose to redesign the existing VTOL plane that was built by a team last year. From their homes, they did literature reviews, researched ways to improve the plane’s design, and tested the new designs, improvising when necessary.


The Scope of Work
Using the already manufactured Zephyr 2.0 from last year, they focused on improving its center of gravity, redesigning the cargo hold and wings, and optimizing other features to make a durable and strong yet ultra-lightweight plane. Both teams had to use all the theoretical skills they had acquired over the past three years and put them into practice. Dr. Mohammad Harb was faculty advisor to both teams.



3D Printing Team
Samir Omar, Jad Rammal, Nicolas Sargi, Raffi Yalenezian
Using the 3D printers at MSFEA was a good option given limited funds to buy materials on the market. The team focused their efforts on making a new cover for the wingtip and new designs for the motor mount to improve the plane’s center of gravity and performance. The covers and the compartment would then be 3D printed. The team also worked on the medical kits that would go in the cargo hold, taking into account the weight they would add. 



Manufacturing Team
Hamza Dani, Ahmad Kazan, Lanna Kuba, Nour Younes
The team’s objective was to finish manufacturing the aircraft and attach the controls in order to realize a fully functional plane. In particular, the team had to manufacture a new left wing, which had failed in tests done the previous year. The team also redesigned the ribs of the wings, opting for 3D printed ribs that would be light but durable. Extensive analyses were conducted by both teams on the new designs to ensure that the final aircraft would fulfill all requirements. 




The Hurdles
Both teams found communication and teamwork difficult given the constraints imposed by COVID-19 precautions. Whereas previous FYP teams could use any break while on campus to talk with teammates and hop over to the lab to do some work on their project, this was not possible for them. Yet, despite all the difficulties, they all agree that it was a valuable learning experience.

Their biggest regret? Not being able to fly it. Having been given the green light to access campus in late April, the teams are now in a race to finish manufacturing the components and assembling the plane, which they hope to finish by the end of the semester. But flying it will not be an option given the numerous setbacks imposed by the pandemic and other national crises.

A possible silver lining… Maybe a future FYP team will take up the Zephyr project, complete the plane, and invite this year’s teams back to campus for its maiden flight.

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