WIALD RAD group photo

This year, our Women in Aerospace for Leadership and Development (WIALD) student group took on a project unlike any they have ever attempted before, and it involves one of the most popular topics in the news today – the drone.

WIALD’s goal was to design a UAV system with the capability to transport a payload from one destination to another. UT mechanical and electrical engineering majors who had an interest in the project also participated.

ASE major and president of the organization, Patil Tabanian, said WIALD wanted to apply Amazon’s delivery drone concept. They worked to obtain a steadfast option to deliver supplies like medicine, medical supplies, or clean water straws to destinations that are not easily accessible through land or water, due to reasons that include natural disasters or political boundaries.

Members of WIALD started to work on the Remote Aid Delivery (RAD) project last fall when they drafted a technical proposalto the team’s faculty advisor,Dr. Armand Chaput.

RAD consists of two parts: a radio controlled airplane, called the mothership, that was designed and constructed by students in the Senior Aircraft Design II course a year ago; and a glider to carry the payload.

WIALD members designed, constructed, and tested the glider in its entirety. Because the mothership was passed down from a former course, WIALD members used a reverse engineering technique to make structural modifications and fix the electronics system.

Members of the team programmed the autopilot that controls the glider and manual control was put into place as a backup.


Flight-testing began on a rainy day in early May, forcing WIALD members to huddle under a metal shack while they worked to repair the GPS on the glider, according to Ashleigh Caison, WIALD vice president. The team also adjusted the control surfaces on the mothership and fixed the servo in the front landing gear.

During the first flight tests, the mothership and glider were flown separately. The mothership was tested to make sure all electronics functioned properly, the aircraft was stable, and the dropping mechanism released on command. Once both aircraft functioned on their own, they were integrated for the final flight.

“Most of us came into this project knowing next to nothing about airplanes, and came out of it having learned a lot about the technical details, and also about systems engineering,” Caison said. “I couldn't be more proud of our team leads, chief engineers, and all our team members that worked on this project.”

WIALD would like to express its sincere gratitude to its corporate partners for their support on this project and their outreach efforts: The Boeing Company, Emergent Spacecraft Technologies, Millennium Engineering & Integration Company, and Schlumberger, Inc. We would also like to thank Mark Maughmer II who served as project advisor and mothership pilot and Jake Farrington for his role as glider back-up pilot.