The Drone Lives! Composites Technology Completes Heavy Lift Quadcopter Concept

IYRS School of Technology & Trades

The development of the concept model for a Heavy Lift Aerial Platform (HLAP) has been an ongoing Composites Technology project for over 4-years. The project started in our old Bristol facility in the Fall of 2015. Since then, multiple classes and groups of students have contributed to the start and stop progress of this interesting technology demonstrator project.

This non-flying concept model is a 2-meter x 2-meter quadcopter that is designed with a lift capacity of 103-pounds of continuous load. It features eight electric motors with four sets of counter-rotating 24-inch propellers. The airframe consists of prepreg carbon fiber with a 3D printed thermoplastic sub-structure. The mock-up motors are also 3D printed.

“The ducted fan design capitalizes on about 12% of additional thrust over an open prop configuration, reduces the noise level, and will allow the vehicle to “park” up against the side of a building, in trees, or operate safely in proximity to maritime rigging,” says Bob Lacovara, Composites Technology Lead Instructor.

The purpose of the project was to become a platform for the incorporation of many different fabrication techniques and applications of materials. The fabrication included the use of complex CAD/CNC machining, epoxy tool making, advanced composites pre-preg molding, vacuum infusion, open-molding, and 3D printing. These processes served as a laboratory for the integration of composites design, materials, and processing methodology.

While the development originally started in 2015 as a group capstone project in Bristol, it then migrated to the new Brooks Building in Newport. Here it became an independent project as successive generations of students became interested in the fabrication. Composites Technology graduates who contributed to the effort include:

Fall Class of 2015:

Alec Basilion

Alex Messina-Deane

Elijah Mendelsohn

Emmanuil Politopoulos

Henry Andreas Demone

Patrick Bolger

Sean Manson

Stephen Mackenzie

Jeffery St. Pierre

Marin Bon Mardion

Fall Class of 2016:

Matt Japikse

Nathaniel Hallowell


Spring Class 2018:

Kevin Babich

Fall Class 2018:

Wyatt Jeffries

Jon Macey

Fall Class 2019:

Fred Whitehead

Faculty Involved:

Bob Lacovara

John Aubrecht

Kelsey Britton

In terms of the potential use of the Heavy Lift Aerial Platform, Lacovara says, “The HLAP concept has a range of applications from commercial to military tasking. The vehicle’s design load capacity produces the potential for delivery of goods, use as an observation platform, for inspections, communications, search and rescue, or cinematography.” 

The completion of this project demonstrates the intersection of product design, materials application and processing techniques to produce this technological achievement. The diligent work of multiple generations of students is at the core of this completed project. Thank you to all who contributed!

A special thanks goes out to Composites One and Axion for donations of specialized materials used in the tooling and fabrication. The HLAP will be on display in the Brooks Building stairwell, overlooking the next group of students who will wrap their arms around another fascinating project.