Jessica Peare takes her passion for aerospace engineering to new heights, whether she's sitting in the cockpit or controlling an unmanned vehicle from the ground.
The mechatronic systems engineering student, who earned her pilot’s license at age 18, is a member of SFU’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle team: Team GUARDIAN. The multidisciplinary group of students, who pit their creations against teams from across Canada at annual competitions, netted second place in the 2012 Unmanned Systems Canada (USC) competition.
The team is hoping to repeat or surpass its success at the competition this year, with a brand new challenge: mounting a DSLR camera to the vehicle. The camera will capture an image every second and relay the images back to the team’s computer, where they will run image processing software to detect terrain features, such as colour.
Peare joined the team in her first year, gaining fundamental technical skills before moving into a leadership role. “I do a lot of the project management; submitting deliverables, technical writing and creating design reports,” she says. The team’s USC Phase I design report recently placed third out of 16 teams nationwide.
“Based on my aviation knowledge, I help decide what works best for the vehicle aerodynamically; for example wing loading is important if you need the vehicle to fly faster,” she says. “The DSLR was a new addition, and it’s heavy, so we had to figure out where to place it. I was able to apply some of the concepts I learned in class, like fluid dynamics, laminar flow and turbulent flow.”
For Peare, who was learning about aviation from her father, a pilot and computing technician, before most people learn to drive, the UAV team was just one of the draws to the mechatronics program at SFU. “Since childhood, I've been excited about the idea of working in aerospace engineering," she says.
Peare was also inspired by her grandfather, who had a successful career in engineering. “He used to tell used to tell me, ‘engineers are building the world,’” she says.
Ideas are powerful, but with her grandfather's words in mind, Jessica is also driven to action her ideas in the real world. "I enjoy both mechanical and electronic engineering and mechatronics bring these together," she says. "I like applying science to building things; I don’t want to just think about it, I want to do it.”
In addition to joining Team GUARDIAN in her first year at SFU, Peare got immediately hands-on by taking part in the Western Engineering Competition’s junior design category. “Our engineering challenge was to build a well and filtration device using sand, cotton balls, gravel, a pop bottle, and duct tape,” she says. “And it actually worked!”
Peare isn’t sure what the future holds, but she’s definitely looking beyond the clouds for career inspiration.
“I would like to make a breakthrough by designing the most efficient UAV, or something that goes to space. That would be the ultimate achievement.”
Update (Dec. ’15): As a member of student start-up Artemis Technologies, Peare is developing drone technology that helps farmers monitor crops more effectively using aerial images and data analytics. The idea began as a mechatronics capstone project with support from the tech e@sfu program. Now, the company is part of the Venture Connection incubator program, and will begin flight-testing in spring 2016.