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CUAir: Help Us Soar Higher

Raised toward our $12,000 Goal
65 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on December 05, at 11:59 PM EST
Project Owners

CUAir: Help Us Soar Higher

CUAir, Cornell University Unmanned Air Systems, is an interdisciplinary project team working to design, build, and test an autonomous unmanned aircraft system capable of autonomous takeoff and landing, waypoint navigation, and reconnaissance. Some of the team’s research topics include airframe design and manufacture, propulsion systems, wireless communication, image processing, target recognition, and autopilot control systems. Check out our website, YouTube channel, and Facebook page!

*If your employer sponsors a matching gift program, our project fund number is 0011253*

Team Picture 2013-2014

CUAir is a student run project team that teaches students various lessons that shape their Cornell experience and their future careers. The experience teaches students how to build real-world systems under real-world scenarios. Students learn to obtain funding sources, to manage budgets, to design systems that fulfill a set of requirements, to develop and build systems, to iterate on designs over years, to innovate in a problem space, to work together as a team, and to lead others towards a vision.

Competition 2014

"CUAir provides students with an experience that can't be found in the classroom, and is even hard to find in industry without years of work. Engineers often don't get to see a product go through an entire development life cycle from customer requirements to production readiness, while the students on CUAir do it every year. On top of that, students learn and use business, leadership, teamwork, and mentorship skills every day they are on the team.  

The work I did on CUAir made me want to be an engineer, working with smart, dedicated people to design innovative solutions to difficult problems. I loved my four years on CUAir and would not be where I am today without it. Supporting this team means supporting the next generation of Cornell engineers to go out and make the world a better place."

- Joel Heck B.S. '14, Team Lead '14

Helios Flying

"How many class projects teach students to develop a large scale production system? To build a system over a year and iterate on the design for 4 years? To work with teams of 35 people with expertise in more than 10 fields? To work on projects that have a budget in the tens of thousands? To compete against 40 international teams in a real-world scenario? CUAir taught me skills that academic coursework simply could not. It provided me the resources to innovate, to explore ideas, and to challenge myself.

My CUAir experience gave me a distinct advantage in my academic endeavors, in my job search, and now in my career. Its value to students can not be overstated, which is why I am donating to make sure future students can experience CUAir."

- Phillip Tischler B.S. '13 & M.Eng '14, Team Lead '13

Going To Competition Flight Line

"Without a doubt, my time on CUAir has been the single most influential Cornell experience that shaped me into who I am today as an Aerospace Engineer, full-scale pilot and radio controlled model aircraft hobbyist. Working together and becoming close with so many intelligent and unique individuals trying to achieve a common technical goal is truly invaluable. As team lead in 2012, it was an honor and privilege to be a part of a successful project that is continuing to grow to new heights. The knowledge you gain, the things you learn about yourself, and the connections you make will last a lifetime."

- Matthew Lordahl BSME '13, Team Lead '12


Assembling Hyperion


AUVSI Student Unmanned Air System (SUAS) Competition

The competition is broken down into three parts. First, there is a journal paper for which teams are judged on overall system engineering design, proven test data, and safety procedures. Second, there is an oral presentation during which teams demonstrate the capabilities of their airframe, explain why they designed particular components a certain way to meet mission requirements, and discuss how they plan to execute a safe and professional mission. The last component of the competition is the mission itself.

The flight mission consists of taking off, navigating GPS waypoints, searching a grid with boundaries defined by GPS waypoints for targets, navigating another set of waypoints, performing a Simulated Remote Intelligence Center (SRIC) task, and finally landing. There are targets placed on the ground along the entire flight path. The main goal of the mission is to spot and classify these targets (color, shape, GPS position, orientation, etc.), and to fly the mission as fast as possible. During the SRIC portion, teams are required to fly over and connect to a Wi-Fi network to obtain mission data. The most points are given for safety and high levels of autonomy. Key areas to winning are autonomous takeoff and landing, automatic target recognition, autonomous mission planning and flight, and autonomous data handling (e.g. submission of data to judges).

For more information on the competition, check out their website.


- Helios, CUAir's Entry to the 2014 AUVSI SUAS Competition



- Hyperion, CUAir's Entry to the 2013 AUVSI SUAS Competition


Competition Picture 2012-2013


CUAir's Competition Performance

2014: For the third year in a row, the CUAir team placed first in Mission Performance and ultimately brought home a second place finish overall.

2013: CUAir places 1st Overall, 1st in Mission, and 1st in Journal Paper out of over 30 teams from around the world including India, Canada, Turkey, and the United States, making CUAir the World Champions!

2012: CUAir claims 1st in Mission, 6th in Oral Presentation, and 7th in the Journal Paper, with a 2nd place Overall finish!

2011: The team wins 3rd in Journal Paper and also claims 4th in the Oral Presentation.

2003: CUAir competed in the first SUAS Competition and came in 1st place overall!

Hyperion at Competition Ready for Takeoff


Why Donate to CUAir?

We Give Students An Incomparable Learning Experience - CUAir provides hands-on experience building a production-quality autonomous aerial vehicle. The techniques and skills learned on the team are not obtainable through coursework alone. Students will learn skills like interdisciplinary development, financial management, leadership, and more.

We Give Students Increased Employment Opportunities - CUAir members have experience and a skill set that many of their peers do not have. Employers value this knowledge and actively recruit CUAir members. CUAir also has an extensive relationship with its sponsors, including private information sessions, recruitment visits, and other sponsor-led events.

We Are Active In The Engineering Community - As a team, we are very involved with the Cornell community, the Ithaca community, and the engineering community. We have numerous team social events and community outreach events. We believe in a culture of engineering excellence, team friendship, and community support.

Team Picture 2012-2013

Thank you donors! 

As an independent student organization, CUAir relies heavily on external sources for funding. Without the generous support of our donors, we would not be where we are today: a world-class team in the area of autonomous aircraft design and fabrication. CUAir depends on these contributions to excel and expand our efforts. With this support, we aim to continue our success at the competition next June.

To learn more about the team, please visit our website

Choose a giving level



For making a bronze donation, you will receive a personalized thank you letter!



For making a silver donation, we will put your name on our donor wall located in our lab as well as every perk listed above!



For making a gold donation, we will add your name to our donor wall on our website as well as every perk listed above!



For making a platinum donation, we will email you a photo of our team signed by everyone as well as every perk listed above!


Final Approach

For making a titanium donation, we will email you a photo of our team holding a poster saying thank you with your name on it as well as every perk listed above!



For making a diamond donation, we will make a personalized thank you video as well as every perk listed above!