Team VorTech are applying the Lean principles as they reach the half-way stage to testing time in the C-PRIZE UAV challenge, writes Ben MacLaren.
It’s about halfway between the date we were announced as C-Prize finalists, and the date where we will demonstrate our prototype. It’s still hard to say whether we’re half way finished, but things are coming together – what I am sure of is that both the excitement and the pressure are ramping up!
In the last two weeks, we’ve been focussed on simplifying our design. We were lucky enough to attend a Lean start-up workshop with Nick Churchouse of Creative HQ, which came at a really important time for us. His message about producing exactly what is required by your customers, and nothing more, gave us an important reality check!
Essentially our problem was the fact our design was so unique. This led us into the trap of trying to re-invent the wheel for every aspect of the UAV, which in turn gave us something that would have been a real challenge to manufacture in the remaining time. We’re now using many more off-the-shelf components; we’ve also modified the placement of parts to avoid the bulk of the machining we had planned.
We’ve also finished building a test rig – a simpler version of our idea, using standard propellers instead of the cycloidal ones our UAV is based on. We’re going to use this for testing and tuning, which will drastically lower the risk to our primary platform! We are very much looking forward to the testing, though the order for lab coats and safety glasses (and ideally a few panes of bulletproof glass) is looking like it might be squeezed out of the budget…
More parts are arriving every day; mechanical control linkages, servos, motors and yards of carbon fibre are filling up the team’s desks. The last thing left is to optimise the strength-to-weight ratios of a number of structural components, and have these laser cut. Once we get this last batch of parts, we will be getting into the manufacture in earnest – not a moment too soon!