Due to concerns around the rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Collegiate Design Series has shifted the 2020 AeroConnect Challenge event onto a virtual platform. For more information, please visit  

Through the SAE AeroConnect Challenge™ universities will think critically about emerging technology issues relevant to the connected aircraft industry. Teams of university students will identify a real-world connected aircraft problem and develop a UAV system to solve their identified problem.  Immersed in the SAE International’s AeroTech® conference, universities will present their solution in various ways including a technical presentation and on the SAE International’s AeroTech® show floor.

The SAE AeroConnect Challenge™ is the inaugural student engineering design competition in the SAE Emerging Technology Series, which provides an opportunity for students to think critically about current and future emerging technologies in the mobility engineering industry.  Each program within the SAE Emerging Technology Series challenges universities to create a team of multi-disciplinary engineers to collaborate, design, present, and defend conceptual designs to industry professionals.

The formal education objectives of SAE AeroConnect Challenge™ include that participants will demonstrate the ability to:

  • Think critically about current and future emerging technology issues relevant to connected aircraft.
  • Research and define a problem statement currently experienced in the connected aircraft industry.
  • Design a technically capable and affordable UAV system to meet the needs of the mission and stated requirements.
  • Communicate technical information using the SAE International Technical Paper format.
  • Create a Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA).
  • Use a Preliminary Design Review Presentation to present and defend in-depth conceptual designs.
  • Communicate their solution to industry professionals using a SAE AeroTech® Floor Showcase Booth.
  • Work on a multi-disciplinary team to solve a real-world industry problem outside of the classroom.

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Wildfires are expected to once again impact California in 2020, and local authorities are looking for new rapidly deployable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems to support the fire-fighting mission. The primary missions of the UAV system shall be:

  • Fire Detection, Imaging, and Tracking: The UAV system shall be capable of monitoring an area for new fires, provide imagery of on-going fires, and tracking of fire progression.
  • Fire Suppression Aircraft Routing: Once a fire system is identified, the UAV system shall be capable of generating optimal routes for fire suppression aircraft into and out of the fire zone and disseminating those routes back to the ground station. Routes should ensure aircraft separation for ingress and egress of the fire suppression aircraft, as well as separation from any UAV traffic.
  • Persistent Communications Node: Communication within a fire zone is critical, and lives have been lost due to communication failure. Standard Land Mobile Radios (LMR) work on Line-of-Sight, which can be a challenge in a mountainous fire zone. The UAV system shall serve as a persistent communications relay for LMRs in the VHF and UHF frequency ranges.