kathy Barnstorff
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757-864-9886/344-8511 (mobile)

Beth Dickey
Headquarters, Washington

RELEASE : 10-052
College Students Design Futuristic Flying Rescue Vehicles for Contest
WASHINGTON -- Some Virginia college students have designed a rotorcraft that looks like a flying catamaran as the winning entry for a NASA aeronautics competition.

NASA challenged university students to design a civilian aircraft that could rescue up to 50 survivors in the event of a natural disaster, hover to help rescue missions, land on ground or water, travel 920 miles (1,480 km), and cruise at speeds up to 345 miles per hour (555 kph). The amphibious tilt-rotor vehicle also had to be able to fight fires by siphoning water into an internal tank, then dumping it once airborne.

The competition was sponsored by the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project within the Fundamental Aeronautics Program of NASA's Aeronautics Mission Directorate in Washington.

More than 100 college students from the United States and six other countries -- India, England, Canada, Poland, China, and Nigeria -- entered the contest, in teams or as individuals.

Susan Gorton, principal investigator of the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project, led the review panel. "The designs were creative, innovative and looked at many issues in detail," said Gorton. "Reading the student papers highlighted how many bright young engineers are interested in the future of rotary wing vehicles. I certainly hope some of them decide to work with NASA as a career choice."

Ten undergraduates from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. came up with the winning design, a twin-hulled vehicle with a large prop-rotor flanking each hull. A team of 10 graduate students from Georgia Tech in Atlanta and University of Liverpool in England took second place and 28 undergrads from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., placed third.

NASA sponsors design contests in hopes of interesting students in aeronautics and engineering careers. Each winning U.S. teams received a cash award and an engraved trophy through a NASA education grant and cooperative agreement. Cash awards range from $5,000 for first place to $3,000 for third place. Five of the students from the top U.S. teams also won paid summer internships at NASA.

To read more about the competition and to see some of the rotorcraft designs, visit:

The next student aeronautics competition will focus on green aviation. For more information, visit:

For more about other NASA programs, visit:

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