The AUVSI Student Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) Competition is sponsored by the Seafarer Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotic community. Teams compete annually in Lexington Park, Maryland where the competition challenges them to design, fabricate, and demonstrate a system capable of completing a specific and independent aerial operation. It is an international competition which hosts teams from around the globe and gives students a chance to network with professionals of the unmanned systems industry.

Overall team score is determined by three criteria: a journal paper, flight readiness review, and flight demonstration. The journal paper is a technical overview of the flight vehicle, ground station, and any additional hardware developed by the team which describes system design and the rationale behind design decisions. The flight readiness review is an oral presentation which assesses the system for development maturity, effectiveness, and risk to determine readiness to proceed to flight testing.

The flight demonstration requires that the competition vehicle execute autonomous takeoff and navigate a set of waypoints until arriving in a large search field. The vehicle must then locate and identify an unknown number of static targets, roughly 2’ x 2’ in size. Targets are geometric shapes painted with an alphanumeric; teams must identify target shape, background color, alphanumeric, alphanumeric color, latitude, longitude, and orientation. In addition to the targets, a modem box equipped with a radio beacon must be located and accessed remotely for a secret message. The competition has been expanded to include secondary objectives such as infrared targets, air drops, and virtual obstacle avoidance. The mission is terminated with an autonomous landing, ending with total mission time under forty minutes.