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Students miss out on $100,000 despite winning aircraft competition
Three students missed out on $100,000 in prize money despite winning an international aircraft competition.
Middlesex University students Mehmet Ali Erbil, 26, Mantas Brazinskas, 25, and Witold Mielniczek, 29, were one of nine teams to enter the UAVForge competition in America.
Mehmet Ali Erbil, from Enfield, had spent four years working on the small unmanned air vehicle (UAV) called HALO as part of his PHD, and his two fellow students had helped out for the last year.
Despite totting up the highest amount of points in the competition, on Sunday, June 1, the students discovered all teams were disqualified as their UAVs failed to meet the criteria of the competition.
None of the competitors won the cash as their machines did not land on a building for three hours, although the students believe the rules were not clear enough.
Not only did the students miss out on the cash, they also lost the chance to work with the UAVForge manufacturer to build 15 of their machines for the use by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Mr Ali Erbil remained defiant about the crew’s win, and said: “It was never about the cash part, it was all about being the winners.
“It’s a shame, I know exactly what happened. I think the organisers wanted to give the cash prize away but they took it to their supervisors and realised that no one had completed the full course.”
Mr Ali Erbil, who is based at the Enfield campus in Trent Park, said: “In the rules, it never clearly stated that we had to sit there for three hours, it said ‘up’ to three hours so we hovered around for ten minutes.
“They were trying to be non-biased so if you asked them a question to do with the rules, they would just say ‘sure, go for it.’”
Mr Ali Erbil, who will finish his university course next year, will not let the team’s narrow defeat deter him from carrying on working on his machine.
He said he will carry on working on the UAV, which cost £10,000 to build, by adding lighter parts to make sure his project continues improving.
He said: “I look at something that doesn’t work and look at ways to make it better – I think can I make it work?”
UAVForge, who admit the difficulty of this year’s course on their website, said: “The fact that no team completed the scenario reflects the underlying difficulty of the very real challenges of small perch and stare for operational use.”