Annual VFS Design-Build-Vertical Flight Competition

1st Annual DBVF Competition

2021 DBVF: U. Michigan team (small jpg)May 27, 2021 update: VFS is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Design-Build-Vertical-Flight (DBVF) Student Competition, totaling $5,500:

  • 1st: University of Michigan (shown)
  • 2nd: University of Maryland
  • 3rd: The Ohio State University

Check out our photo gallery of the winners.

Honorable mentions: McGill University, Oregon State University, Penn State and Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology.

Congrats to all the teams for perservance through all the challenges of design and development during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Read the press release to learn more.

The Vertical Flight Society has launched its inaugural VFS Design-Build-Vertical Flight (DBVF) Student Competition. This electric-powered remote-control vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) competition seeks to encourage interest in unmanned aircraft technology, and small air vehicle design and fabrication. The competition is designed to develop hands-on skills and familiarization with eVTOL and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) technology at the university student level and prepare the next generation of engineers and leaders to push the limits of this exciting technology into the future.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, and after careful consideration and input from universities, VFS has made the difficult decision to cancel the fly-off portion of the competition which was scheduled from April 16-17, 2021 at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Robotics Research Collaboration Campus (R2C2) at Graces Quarters in Maryland. The fly-off would not have been a viable event due to university travel restrictions and other issues related to COVID. 

VFS greatly appreciates the hard work and planning that the ARL team put in over the last several months and look forward to building and continuing this partnership into the 2022 competition and beyond.

Final awards will be distributed and based on the deliverables (PDR, FTR) accomplished prior to the competition fly-off. In addition, the teams will be giving the opportunity to virtually present an overview of their design work to a panel of judges in lieu of the fly-off.

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The general aircraft requirements are restricted to the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) Group 1, which limits the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to no more than 20 lb (9.1 kg). Aircraft size and weight will factor into the competition scoring as described in the scoring section of the Request for Proposal.

Congratulations to the following teams for their winning Preliminary Design Reports:

Preliminary Design Report Results:
1st Place University of Michigan ($750)
2nd Place (Tie) Oregon State University and Ohio State University ($500)
3rd Place University of Maryland ($250)


2021 DBVF Teams
McGill University VFS & AERO McGill Team
Ohio State University Buckeye Vertical Team
Oregon State University Beaverhawks 3.0 Team
Pennsylvania State University Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) Team
University of Maryland Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicle (AMAV) Team
University of Michigan Michigan Vertical Flight Technology (MVFT) Team
Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology Vaughn College UAV Team

Awards include the following:

  • Overall Competition: 1st – $2000; 2nd – $1000; 3rd – $500
  • Preliminary Design Report: 1st – $750; 2nd – $500; 3rd – $250

Download the Request for Proposal (Rev 3 updated Dec. 1, 2020).

Also available Frequently Asked Questions PDF (updated March 23, 2021) and the Achieving Autonomy appendix.

Team eligibility rules include:

  • Full-time university students; must have at least one faculty advisor.
  • Each team member must be a current VFS Student Member ($25/year) at the time of submitting your Preliminary Design Report (PDR). Find VFS membership information at
  • Each team’s pilot must also hold an FAA Part 107 Drone Certification.

Timeline of deliverables:

  • Proposal Submission Window: Sept. 1 – Oct. 15, 2020
  • Preliminary Design Report (PDR): Dec. 20, 2020 – Send PDRs to
  • Final Technical Report extended to: March 29, 2021
  • Competition Weekend Cancelled: April 16–17, 2021 [Virtual presentations to be scheduled with teams.]

DVBF Timeline

Questions? Email: