UMD UAS Test Site Helps Host RoboNation SUAS Competition

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A photo of the teams at the RoboNation SUAS 2022 competition, taken via drone.

RoboNation recently held its Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) 2022 competition where students are tasked with designing, building, and then demonstrating the capabilities of an unmanned aerial system (UAS). For the first time, the event was co-hosted by Saint Mary’s County and the University of Maryland (UMD) UAS Test Site at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport in Southern Maryland. The new venue allowed for multiple flights at one time with a total of 71 registered teams and $20,500 awarded to competing teams.

Over the summer, RoboNation continued to make the most of UMD’s resources and hosted two additional competitions, SeaPerch and RoboSub, at the Eppley Recreation Center on UMD’s College Park campus. This growing partnership between RoboNation and UMD presents the opportunity to foster greater student engagement with team competitions, specifically involving autonomous technology.

In past years, RoboNation held its SUAS competition at the Webster Navy Outlying Field, but this year, the venue wasn’t available. Matt Scassero, the Director for Research, Innovation, and Outreach at the Maryland Autonomous Technology and Innovation Xploration (MATRIX) Lab and former director of the UAS Test Site, heard the news and saw an opportunity. He jumped at the chance to hold the event at St. Mary’s Airport, where the UAS Test Site is located.

“I went to the county right away and asked if we could hold it at the airport. Immediately everyone came together and said, ‘yes, let’s do it!’” said Scassero. 

Once the venue was set, Test Site engineer Josh Gaus took the lead on coordinating with RoboNation to set up the logistics of the competition. Gaus consulted on high-level setup as an expert on the layout of St. Mary’s Airport and a former SUAS competitor himself. The Test Site drew maps of the airport and worked with RoboNation to determine how to best adapt the compeition to the new venue. Throughout the competition, the Test Site used their own UAS to capture photos and videos of the event. 

“I went to the county right away and asked if we could hold it at the airport. Immediately everyone came together and said, ‘yes, let’s do it!’”

Matt Scassero

“The Test Site knows how to do UAS operations, so we were able to help set the competition up for success,” said Gaus. “From my perspective, the Test Site’s primary mission is to help UMD, and by extension, help students with UAS related research, so it was really exciting to support RoboNation and this competition.”

The venue change and collaboration with the Test Site weren't the only changes to the RoboNation SUAS competition this year; the event also took place in record time. Under normal circumstances, a competition like this would take about three days of flying for all of the teams to compete. This year, two teams were able to fly at once, which cut the flying time in half. This coordinated effort demonstrates that the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (USMSM) is an innovation district for autonomous systems, and Scassero has high hopes for future collaborations.

“This event gave us the opportunity to show that we are a center of autonomous activity,” said Scassero. “Going forward, both the UAS Test Site and the new MATRIX lab in the SMART building will be involved in developing new student competition teams. This gives us the opportunity to establish UMD as a leader in autonomous technology, research, and education.”



If you’d like to learn more about the RoboNation SUAS Competition, contact UAS Test Site engineer, Josh Gaus:

Published August 16, 2022