Canada’s National Student UAS Competition 2021 – Results

Unmanned Systems Canada / Systèmes Télécommandés Canada (USC-STC) is pleased to announce the 12th national Student UAS Competition flying phase and special prize winners. This year, the student teams were asking to design an unmanned system to deliver medications to remote communities in Canada, not accessible by road.

Ryerson University’s RUAV team was declared the winner of the 12th Unmanned Systems Canada – Systèmes Télécommandés Canada annual Student UAS Competition.  Due to the COVID -19 pandemic, the flying phase of the competition was postponed from 2020 and held virtually this year. 

The purpose of this annual competition is to:

“Promote and develop Canadian expertise and experience in unmanned systems technologies at the university and college levels.”

Coincidentally, the scenario designed two years ago became more relevant in a global pandemic, as the simulated mission for the competition was to assist remote communities in Manitoba in dealing with a medical emergency.

The organization running the medical clinic network needed the rapid response capabilities of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to deliver critical medications and supplies from their depot to a drop-off point to communities inaccessible by road. 

Task 1 involved picking up medical supplies from inside a tent, flying as far as possible, and then delivering the supplies into another tent. In Task 2, four or more boxes of supplies had to be delivered to different tents. Teams representing 10 universities from across Canada registered to design an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and for the first time, had the option to include an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to support the operation. 

These technological advances are currently being tested in Canada and implemented across the world; from local emergency medical services teams promptly delivering defibrillators to individuals in cardiac arrest, to delivering otherwise inaccessible supplies and pharmaceuticals. Canadian organizations such as Renfrew County Paramedics, InDro Robotics, Drone Delivery Canada, London Drugs, and Canada Post are hard at work applying these technologies to deliver medical supplies to Canadian locations.

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, Phase 2, the flying component slated in Southport, MB in May 2020, was postponed. With teams keen to learn from their innovation and hard work, the competition resumed in September 2020, albeit with some changes. The scenario remained the same, given that we were in a real medical emergency, however, returning teams from 2020 were asked to create a technical performance report of their proposed competition design, as well as reflections on the transition from 2020 to the 2021 competition, in addition to video submission. 

The design and performance paper winners announced earlier this year were honored at the virtual awards ceremony held Sunday 27 June. 

Phase 1 – Design Paper Competition 2020

1st place:  Carleton University – Blackbird

2nd place: École de technologie supérieure – DronoLab

3rd place: Université de Sherbrooke – VAMUdeS

Phase 1B – Performance Paper Competition 2021

1st place:  University of Toronto – UTAT UAS

2nd place: University of British Columbia – UBC UAS

3rd place: École de technologie supérieure – DronoLab

A panel of seven judges representing a cross section of the UAS sector, were impressed by the quality of the reports, the inclusion of new technologies into the systems and the way the solutions were presented. 

The flying phase was conducted over the month of June at a time and location chosen by each team.  They alerted the judges of their flight date, live streamed the mission, then sent a video of task details and a written report for judging.  Despite continued COVID restrictions, seven of the 10 universities were able to continue to the flying operations. 

Phase 2  – Flying Phase results:

1st place: Ryerson University – RUAV

2nd place: University of Toronto – UTAT UAV

3rd place: Université de Sherbrooke – VAMUdeS

Prizes recognizing innovation, perseverance and a unique quality were also awarded. 

First Place Team RUAV – Ryerson University

Innovation prize: Sponsored by Aurora Aerial  

Ryerson University – Team RUAV 

The 2021 competition Tasks were challenging. Scoring for Task 1 emphasized carrying distance and for Task 2 emphasized delivering the largest number of boxes. Ryerson optimized these wide range of requirements by creating the only vehicle in the competition which drove on the ground for entering the tents, took off like a helicopter to minimize transition time, and then flew like an airplane to maximize transport distance…and they also created a separate vehicle for Task 2 which drove like a vehicle, loaded four boxes at a time using a rotating arm, and flew like a helicopter to the delivery point.  Ryerson’s brilliant analysis of the competition requirements, excellent engineering and construction of two integrated vehicles, and near flawless execution of the Tasks during the competition make them the winner of both the competition and the Innovation Award.

Pip Rudkin Memorial Award for Perseverance:  

The seven remaining teams demonstrated the perseverance against the uncertainty and restrictions placed on them by COVID protocols. It takes perseverance to work as a team even when you can’t get together! 

Judges Award: University of British Columbia – UBC UAS 

Due to the virtual format of the competition in 2021, competitors were required to prepare a summary video of their competition effort.  They were given a script of the video requirements, including showing pilot qualifications, demonstrating drone safety features, weighing of the drones, and specific elements of the two competition Tasks, as well as a favourite ‘unscripted moment’. No time limit was specified for the video.  All teams except one provided videos that came in at roughly an hour, with various degrees of compliance with the script. The UBC UAS team video very specifically complied with exactly what the script required, with labels in the video to identify the scripted clips, and…most importantly for the judges…the video was 14 minutes long. Judges appreciate not scrolling through long videos!  

Thanks to the generous support from industry sponsors, cash prizes in excess of $15,000 were awarded to these outstanding teams.  

USC-STC would like to thank the competition committee for their perseverance and innovation in keeping the competition going for two years. The group of dedicated industry professionals and former competitors collaborated with the teams to keep the standard of this world-class competition. We really missed the camaraderie this year. The conversations with sponsors, committee members and judges are on the top of the list when they all meet in Southport, MB in May 2022.