LAVEP: Lightweight Advanced VTOL EDF Project


This team is tasked with improving upon the vertical takeoff and landing aircraft prototype Kestrel. Kestrel uses 3 electric ducted fans (EDFs) which are housed inside nacelles which can rotate about the pitch axis such that their thrust can be redirected from being expelled rearward to downward and are powered by lithium polymer batteries. The augmentation of these nacelles allows for standard forward flight, transitional flight, and vertical flight.

The aircraft is primarily constructed with light weight 3d printed components which are reinforced by carbon fiber rods and tubes. This allows the model to have geometries not easily achieved by other techniques

Kestrel proved the propulsion layout of 2 forward EDFs, and 1 rear EDF, all rotating about the pitch axis, can control the craft in vertical flight and maintain a stable hover. All of the control surfaces worked, the construction process was validated, and the landing gear worked well. Kestrel suffered from 2 major issues that work against each other to prevent the successful VTOL flight of the first prototype: too much weight and not enough thrust in vertical flight.

In addition to the deficiencies in vertical flight, Kestrel’s wing was proven to be inefficient in CFD testing and likely would not have performed well at low airspeeds. It was clear that a better wing needed to be designed for the design’s full potential to be reached. 

Goal and Objectives:

It is clear from the background that the key components which require revision in the next iteration are the wing, the propulsion system and its nacelles, and the reduction in weight across the aircraft.

The wing should produce more lift, but not at too great a drag penalty. 

The propulsion system should produce far greater thrust by using more powerful EDFs as well as having a more efficient ducting system.

The aircraft should use a higher energy density battery, a more light weight structure, and remove any unnecessary components to reduce mass wherever possible. 

The roll authority provided by the front EDFs should allow for far greater control and stability when hovering.

The general configuration and construction of the second prototype should not differ greatly from that of Kestrel. 


Team Contacts:

Kevin Mardirossian -

Milo Cueva -

Narek Kousherian -


Professor David Copp

Project status: 
Academic year: