BMFA School and University Payload Challenge 2023 – Report

This year’s very successful School and University Challenge was held at the BMFA National Centre on the 14th and 15th of June and was attended by thirteen universities and one high school from across the world. Twenty four teams of five plus a manager and a pilot were spread across the three challenges that were run this year.

The competitive spirit and the buzz was palpable across the site and it was wonderful to see so many young people collaborating and working together on their models and designs.

The standard of competition was high and with a high rate of success. Most of the models were constructed to a very high standard and had been extensively tested before the competition.

The challenges that were competed for this year were Distance, Quantity and Weight.

Every model went through a scrutineering process that tested the model was flight worthy and that all safety procedures had been followed.

Drawings and plans for all three challenges had to be submitted in advance for marking by the judges.  As part of the challenge each team also had to give a five minute presentation outlining their design processes and thinking.

The weather was kind being warm and sunny with occasional strong gusts which did lead to some occasional hairy moments in the air but generally all went well.


 This challenge involved designing and building a model that could carry a maximum of 500g block of balsa wood measuring a maximum of 150mm x 150mm x 300mm; to complete as many laps of the course in the time allowed.

Although just two teams entered for this challenge the competition was hotly contested. It was interesting to note that I School from Chenmai China beat the undergraduate team from Poland.



Model Name of Organisation Team Name Position
D02 I School Chenmai Team 1 1
D01 AGH University of S&T Krakow AGH Solar Plane 1.0 2


The aim of this challenge was as follows:

” Contestants are to research, design, build and fly an electric powered, radio controlled aircraft, to transport the greatest number of 150 +/- 10mm diameter polystyrene spheres of mass 35 +/- 5g around a predetermined course in the three 6 minute time slots utilising a standardised propulsion unit.”

[Extract from Payload Challenge 4 booklet].

This challenge proved to be very entertaining to watch with five teams including four from Universities in China. [I School Chenmai, Hebei University of Science and Technology, University of Hong Kong and Beihang University]. The fifth team came from Loughborough University in the East Midlands. 

The model designs were colourful and innovative with differing payload configurations ranging from boxlike to “bubble” tubes to fit the spheres exactly.

The speed and precision of some of the teams loading and unloading the payload was fascinating to watch as some teams were like F1 mechanics in their speed and accuracy. 



Model Name of Organisation Team Name Position
Q04 Hainan micro-city future school (China) Team ISCHOOL 1
Q02 Beihang University Beihang Aeromodelling Team 2
Q01 Hebei University of Science and Technology China HEBUSTMAA Team 3
Q03 The University of Hong Kong Team Majestic 4
Q05 Loughborough University Flying Toblerone 5


In this challenge teams had to:

“Design and build a radio controlled aircraft using the specified design and equipment parameters, capable of carrying the specified liquid payload. They should design their aircraft to maximise the value of the ratio “payload/aircraft empty mass”. The aircraft empty mass is defined as the mass without payload, payload receptacle but with flight batteries.

The flight competition will be judged on the basis of the achieved value of the “payload/empty aircraft mass” ratio.

[Extract from Payload Challenge 5 booklet].

This challenge had the most entries and was very keenly contested. Again there was an international entry comprising three teams from China, two teams from Krakow, one team from Munich and eleven teams from UK Universities. This event carried the most entries from Universities in the UK and Europe.

This was an exciting and very competitive event and most teams managed to get at least one round underway with their designs. The payload receptacles ranged from juice cartons, flat plastic bags or specially designed and constructed interlocking boxes. Much measuring and weighing of water was going on throughout to ensure the optimum payload could be carried at all times. The gusting winds made for some very nerve wracking flights but thankfully there were few model casualties that could not be repaired.



Model Name of Organisation Team Name Position
W03 Beihang University Beihang Aeromodelling Team 1
W14 Technical University of Munich AkaModell München e.V 2
W02 Hebei University of Science and Technology China HEBUSTMAA Team 3
W04 University of Hong Kong Aquaflyer 4
W09 University of Hertfordshire X-SAMM 5
W15 Coventry University Stickbox 6
W13 University of Manchester Team Fortis 7
W08 University of Hertfordshire UH BUXTON 8
W18 Coventry University TBC 9
W01 City University of London City UoL Flyers 10
W07 Loughborough University Hindenberg 11
W17 Coventry University Balsa Salsa 12
W05 AGH University of Science & Technology Kracow, Poland AGH Solar Plane 2.0 13
W16 Coventry University Lightning McCrash 14
WO6 AGH University of Science & Technology Kracow, Poland AGH Solar Plane 3.0 15
W11 University of Manchester Team Fortoes 16
W12 University of Manchester Bombushka 17

In conclusion the Payload competition was a great success and was enjoyed by all. Congratulations should go not only to the worthy winners but to all the teams who took part and helped to make it a wonderful few days. Thanks, should also go to Lisa, Manny, the volunteers and all the judges who helped to make this an extremely memorable event.

The only thing to do now is to look forward to next year when it is to be hoped we will get even more entries and we will be able to run all five challenges.

Helen Jones