DroneTeam Twente students unveil humanitarian aid drone Thunderbird

The student drone team of the University of Twente has unveiled the following entry for the drone competition iMechE UAS Challenge: Thunderbird. The unmanned aerial vehicle is designed for the rapid transport of medical aid equipment.

DroneTeam Twente must adhere to various parameters for the entry to the drone competition to earn points, including a maximum weight of ten kilograms. That’s 10kg for the drone including medical payload, so explains the student team. The team uses a ‘special foam-like plastic’ for the fuselage, which is formed into the shell of the drone by a 3D printer. Internally, the Thunderbird uses a carbon frame.

Another distinguishing factor of the Thunderbird is the use of a ‘boxwing’ design, where the wings of the drone are one piece. “A crucial parameter for efficiency is the lift-to-drag ratio. (…) With the new design we have more buoyancy and less air turbulence, because the front and rear wings are connected to each other. You can also omit the horizontal stabilizer, which reduces the air resistance even further. The reduced drag also means that the speed increases. The new drone can reach a top speed of 120 km/h.”

In addition to a shot at the podium during the iMechE UAS Challenge, DroneTeam Twente wants to say that its ‘drone innovations are applied in the real world for humanitarian purposes’. To do this, the team will collaborate with development aid organizations in Africa. “Medical help is difficult to reach in these areas. The roads are unsuitable for cars or villages are not in the right place on the map. This can lead to problems if an ambulance is needed, for example.” In such a case, an autonomous drone can quickly deliver medical devices, regardless of the road condition.