Jake Southwell: My Placement Year Experience

Jake Southwell: My Placement Year Experience

Cfms 120919 101748Meet Jake Southwell! Jake is a Mechanical Engineering Student at the University of Bath, who is currently undertaking a placement year at CFMS

As part of my year-long placement year with CFMS, I’m applying the knowledge I have gained from the first two years at university to aid research and development within digital engineering. I’m part of the Model Based Systems Engineering team and focus primarily on generating mathematical models of dynamic systems, which is achieved by using Python. 

A placement year is giving me the chance to learn new skills and information from those around me, which will contribute to the remainder of my degree and future career in engineering.

My project: Aircraft Modelling

My main project for the year involves modelling the dynamics of an autonomous surveillance drone, which was designed and manufactured by a previous placement year student. The flight testing of the drone was unstable and required further refinement of the modelling and control to make it flyable. 

Using a combination of existing models and writing models myself, I generated a complete system to represent the drone. This included modelling the motors, propellers, batteries and most importantly, the wing and its aerodynamic behaviour. Most of the maths and physics behind this was new to me and it was interesting to have a greater understanding of how these things worked.

Where possible, the accuracy of the models was validated against the experimental data. I was given access to a static thrust rig, which enabled the testing of the thrust provided by the propellers at different levels of throttle. These measurements, along with the RPM and electrical draw from the motor were sufficient to represent the behaviour of the propellers during operation. A method of sensitivity analysis, Sobol Indices, was used to determine the parameters which had the strongest contribution to the variance of the thrust output. Being able to create a model which could be compared to a physical system or component was really satisfying.

Other projects

Away from the aircraft challenge, I have also been working on 3D Modelling and have been working on the development of the Virtual Reality of the CFMS Office and Data Centre. A key part of this ongoing work is to access live data from within the Data Centre which is displayed within the live VR environment. 

What’s next?

The next steps of my aircraft modelling project are to research the degradation of the components during operation and after a number of cycles. This will progress to models for part replacement schedules and reviewing how to minimise costs.

After my placement year, I will be going back to university for two years to complete my Masters degree. My placement has shown me that I want to pursue a career as an engineer and I would like to be more involved within the field of mathematical modelling. 


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