A New Chapter

…And we’re back!

This space has been pretty quiet recently. After the conclusion of the UAVForge competition just over a year ago, the team needed a bit of a break. After all, none of the team members were able to devote their full attention to this project; some had full-time jobs to get back to, some had graduate research programs that were feeling neglected, and a few of the team members have since finished a degree program and gone onto new adventures. We’ve each been hard at work in our own pursuits, brainstorming and gathering ideas.

But now we’re back, recharged and ready to tackle new problems! We’ll be in “stealth mode” for a while, as we develop our ideas. After all, with no external competition or constraints, the sky’s the limit!

Stay tuned!

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Fly-off Travel Cancelled

It is with heavy hearts that we must announce we are dropping out of the UAVForge fly-off competition.
A number of factors, including testing damage to the vehicle we presented at the live video demo, necessitated that we build another vehicle for the fly-off. Unfortunately, a variety of problems arose with this new vehicle during testing and we were unable to fix them in the short time between vehicle completion and leaving for the fly-off. After a consultation with DARPA, we agreed it would be best to not spend resources to attend a competition we would be unable to meaningfully compete in.
We would like to thank all of our friends, family, and other supporters for their encouragement throughout this whole experience. Particular thanks goes out to all the UAVForge competitors; it was amazing to see the variety of designs and passion for crowd sourced UAVs out there. If UAVForge continues in any form, whether it be as a competition, a place to exchange ideas, or what not, icarusLabs will do its best to remain a part of the community.
Additionally, we will continue troubleshooting our problems (we’ll admit that we’re looking forward to working on a somewhat less compressed schedule). If we make any progress we’ll be sure to share it with the community.
We’ve had a great time in this competition and hope you did too. Best of luck to the teams currently in Georgia and those arriving soon!
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We Made It to the UAVForge Fly-Off!

We’re excited to announce that we were selected by an independent government panel as one of the 12 finalists for the UAVForge Final Fly-Off!  We’d like to extend our appreciation to all of our supporters for their faith, encouragement, and confidence, and to other members of the UAVForge community for providing constructive criticism. Given that we were selected from an initial pool of more than 40 teams, we are honored to have reached this point in the competition. We could not have done it alone: many thanks to our sponsors, supporters, and fellow competitors!

Check out the official announcement: http://www.uavforge.net/uavhtml/ [This link has since been deleted. -Justine, May 2013]

In the coming months, we plan to address our system’s challenges as noted by the UAVForge community. Our first and foremost priority is to rebuild our vehicle for further stability and performance flight testing. Since the initial concept phase, our airframe has evolved significantly as we refined our design. In addition, more detailed analysis will allow us to systematically improve our flight performance. We’ve learned a lot from this experience, and we look forward to showcasing our final design at the Fly-Off in May!

We are currently looking for ways to improve our capabilities through collaboration and financial support. As always, we welcome your continued input in the following months through messages and comments on our website.

Thanks again for following us, and congratulations to the other UAVForge Fly-Off finalists!

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Milestone 3 Live Demo!

Milestone 3 Video Submission

It has been an exciting week, and we’re proud to say we’ve successfully completed our submission for Milestone 3! Full story is below, but we do want to remind you to take a look at our submission on the UAVForge site, and if you like what you see, please login and vote!

Milestone 3 Video

Since we were rained out on Wednesday, our backup slot was on Thursday morning at 8am. We arrived at the field at 7:15am to do some warm-up tests and make sure everything was up to par. All was well until about 15 minutes before our scheduled slot when we crashed the vehicle and broke off the rear ducted fan. Fortunately, our robust design and resourceful operators enabled us to make some quick field repairs and get back in the air in time for the demo.

At 8:00am, we connected with the DARPA staff. We recapped our system and displayed our test setup and ground station.  We were then asked to complete the following flight tasks:

1) Perform a vertical takeoff and hover approximately 10 feet in front of the pilot

2) Ascend approximately 10 feet vertically and hold position.

3) Descend approximately 10 feet back to the original hover position and hold position.

4) Fly in a circle with an approximate 20 foot radius and return to the original hover position.

5) Return to base and land.

Given the nature of the script and our setup, we completed each of these tasks in our “hover mode”, taking off from and landing on a table we set up in the field. Other than a slightly rough landing, our vehicle completed each of these maneuvers very successfully, and we submitted the video footage [The raw video footage is no longer available on UAVForge. -Justine, May 2013] as requested to the DARPA staff.

Next Stage: Voting!

Now, we’ve nearly reached the end of Milestone 3. It’s been a long journey, and we’re very happy to have made it this far, but we need your help! Voting is now open for the video submission, and we encourage you to  on the UAVForge website [Original link to our video on UAVForge is no longer active. -Justine, May 2013]. If you like what you see, vote for us! We’re aiming to make the top 10 and compete in the fly-off competition in May.

If you login, you can vote at our video: (Note: Voting closes on 3/8.)
Milestone 3 Video [Voting is no longer available. -Justine, May 2013]

We would also like to acknowledge that a lot of teams in the UAVForge competition have worked hard to get to this point, and there’s a variety of solutions to this complicated problem, so do check them all out and place meaningful votes for all of the teams.  (More meaningful votes for all teams are actually weighed higher!)   We are certainly in an exciting time for designing UAVs!

Until next time!

– Jason
co-Designer, co-Builder, and RC pilot

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Live Demo Attempt 1

Our team’s primary time slot for Milestone 3, the live demo, was today at 8:30AM. We were very excited to show off our plane to the competition officials, but concerned that the weather wouldn’t let us, as rain was forecast at 9AM.

We arrived at the field at 7:45 and began our setup. There was a mild drizzle, but we were confident that we’d be able to complete the demo if it didn’t get any worse. After setting up, we did a practice run to make sure everything was working (video to be posted after all demos are complete). We were pleased with our performance and then waited for our assigned time slot.

Unfortunately, as soon as our slot came up the rain started to pick up. We were able to accomplish some of the tasks from the provided script, but the increased rain impacted both our VTOL/hover capability and wireless communications; we had to call off the demo.

Our backup time slot is tomorrow at 8AM. We’ll be sure to summarize how it went when we finish. In the meantime, wish us luck and good weather!

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Milestone 3 Progress

As we quickly approach Milestone 3 (the live demonstration) at the end of the month, the team has been hard at work building at night, and outdoor flight testing in the few hours between the end of the work day and sunset.

Yesterday, we tested the transition from manual to stabilize modes with great success. This weekend, we will be testing out waypoint navigation and VTOL capabilities. As in Milestone 2, we have two vehicles– one dedicated to testing forward flight and another for testing VTOL, both under manual and autopilot control. Once we test these systems separately, we will be combining systems. Fingers crossed for good flying weather!


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Milestone 2 – Additional Status Update

We’ve been hard at work since posting our Milestone 2 video, and wanted to provide a brief update on our progress.

We’ve redesigned the plane to lower the overall weight and reduce the wingspan. This also will reduce our power usage, and allow us to be more portable and better suited for eventual field use. Construction for the redesigned airplane is underway and should be completed by the end of the month.

With a “foamie” model of our new design, we’ve continued flight testing in Boston, working to validate our design as well as continue development on the control architecture. On the personnel side of things, our geographically-separated team is shifting a bit, so we’ll likely relocate much of our building and testing from Boston to Baltimore. A side benefit: we are hopeful that continued flight testing can occur in warmer climes.

Enjoy this preview, more photos and specs to come soon…

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Milestone Two

As posted previously, this past weekend was the second time that our team congregated in Boston and assembled our plane. The weekend was a great success and culminated in the plane achieving both forward flight and hover. Checkout the full write-up and videos from the weekend here.

Additionally, we have completed our Milestone Two Video for the competition! The UAVForge competition administrators are contemplating moving the deadline for Milestone Two into January. If that ends up happening we will update our video for the new deadline. In the meantime, enjoy catching up on our progress thus far!

If you enjoyed the video, consider joining the UAVForge community by making an account at http://www.uavforge.net and liking our video. Be sure to check out the videos from other teams for Milestone 2 as well! A lot of people have put long hours into this competition and everyone would love to hear constructive feedback about their UAVs.

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Second Integration Test…coming soon!

Time for our preparations for Milestone 2 in the UAVForge competition!

Our second integration test is due to take place this weekend up in Boston. Our team will once again come together (we live in 4 different states) to share in the ups and downs that take place during testing!

Currently, we are building 2 vehicles in parallel: a “foamie” and the full model. The foamie is our test platform for verifying forward flight and testing the autopilot on a more forgiving platform. See the gallery below for current pics of our foamie model.


Our 2nd model is being built as the full performace vehicle for the Milestone 2 video. It will be used to verify not only hover, transition, and forward flight, but will also serve as a validation of our manufacturing methods. This also includes the layups for the fiberglass body and structure. Check out the new Composite Tutorial page under the Photos section of our site. We’ll be uploading some helpful tips and videos for anyone looking to do smaller layups in a confined space. See the gallery below for the most recent updates on the construction.



First full flight to come this weekend! Keep checking for new flight videos and pictures!


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Redesign – Milestone 2

Icarus Labs has officially finished their UAV redesign!

Check out Our Solution – Design Specifications page for new pictures of our vehicle. 

The taxi test is also posted on our video page.  First flight to come soon! (Once the Boston weather decides to cooperate)

After our 1st prototype for the milestone 1 concept videos, we realized that there were a couple of areas that we could improve upon for the competition, the main one being size.  Our initial vehicle, while still capable of fitting in a standard pack, had to be dissasembled into multiple pieces.  These increase both the complexity and the weight of our vehicle.  Our limiting factor was the size of our lift fans.  To overcome this we’ve redesigned our propulsion system to use EDF ducted fan units as opposed to propellers for the hovering portion of the mission.  These fans provided the same amount of lift for a similar power requirement and effectively reduced our required fan diameter from 12″ to 3.75″.  EDF’s provide a high thrust, high rpm system which is very effective for hovering, but for longer flights, this is not a viable solution so we’ve kept a traditional propeller for the forward flight system which allows us to fly further distances on less power (i.e less weight). This extreme reduction has allowed us to reduce the weight and size of our plane. 

Another improvement we made was to remove the tail section entirely.  The new lift fan sizing in addition to a newly designed airfoil have allowed us to put the rear fan (for pitch/yaw control during hover) in our center wing. This has significantly reduced the footprint of our vehicle and the complexity of assembly in the field.  Icarus Labs’ UAV is now officially a flying wing!


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