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Double wins for France's ENAC and MIT at micro air vehicle competition

Four teams tied for first place in the best mission performance category for the 1st US-Asian assessment and demonstration of micro aerial and unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) technology conference, held from 10-15 March in Agra city, India.

The mission required micro air vehicles (MAV) and UGVs to operate together to detect mines, terrorists and the location of a hostage. The three half-days of trials at the Indian Air Force's drop zone on the outskirts of Agra saw weather and MAV and UGV technical problems end many attempts by the 12 competing teams to complete the mission. The four winning teams were Massachusetts Institute of Technology, France's Ecole Nationale de l'Aviation Civile (ENAC), the University of Arizona and the Martin Mueller Engineering company.

The conference's award categories, including best mission performance, were, best UGV design, best rotorcraft, best autonomous MAV performance and best exotic MAV design.

The MIT team won twice with a joint first place in best mission and the best rotorcraft performance category. ENAC also tied first place in two categories, best mission and best autonomous MAV performance.

Boeing assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics and MIT team leader, Nicholas Roy, said: "This is the first time we've done this. We came just to demonstrate some cool technology. [The mission] was a hard problem. Having done it once we'll know what to do next."

A quad-rotor MAV developed by German company Ascending Technologies was the MIT team's vehicle, while ENAC's was its own fixed-wing design.

At the conference's final plenary session US and Australian military delegates expressed a need for MAVs with night capabilities and all-weather designs that were more rugged. The Agra conference was the fourth in a series of international competitions supported by the US military to evaluate competing MAV technologies. The other three were held in Germany, Florida and France in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

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