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Aerospace Engineering Teams Soar Again With Helicopter Designs at International Competition

A University of Maryland team of engineering seniors won an international competition for its design of a highly efficient electric helicopter that would whisk passengers with physical disabilities above the scrum of road traffic.

The “Blitzen” concept, inspired by the German word blitz (“lightning”) as well as the name of the mythical flying reindeer, took first place in the Vertical Flight Society’s Student Design Competition’s undergraduate category. A second entry, “Starling,” an accessible air taxi with acoustics that blend with soundscapes, placed second in the graduate category. The university’s aerospace engineering teams consistently excel in this contest.

“It took a lot of work as a team to make a fairly thorough conceptual design from the ground up, but the effort was definitely worth it,” said Samuel Allgaier ’22, a member of the winning undergraduate team. “Seeing all of our work come together in the final design was even more rewarding than I could have imagined.”

The 39th annual competition, sponsored by Bell Textron, asked teams to create an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that would accommodate passengers with reduced mobility. Fourteen academic teams from four countries submitted proposals; both of Maryland’s teams designed helicopters for one pilot and four-able-bodied passengers or two passengers with reduced mobility.