CITRIS Aviation Prize

Three photorealistic illustrations of eVOTL aerial taxis flying near a wooded college campus.

Design the Future of UC Air Mobility

The 2023–24 CITRIS Aviation Prize brought together students, researchers and professionals from diverse backgrounds to create a design for on-campus air mobility infrastructure that could serve as a first step for eventual campus-to-campus transportation for the University of California. 

This competition was open to all students at the four CITRIS campuses at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz.

We are grateful to Joby Aviation, Lenovo, Supernal, and the Monterey Bay Drone, Automation and Robotics Technologies (DART) Initiative for their support of the Aviation Prize.

Overview

The first CITRIS Aviation Prize in 2021 challenged student teams to design, develop and demonstrate a long-distance, fully autonomous flight with a small UAV, with the winning team successfully launching its demo flight in October 2022. The 2023–24 competition took a bold leap forward, asking students to envision the next generation of advanced air mobility for the UC system and beyond. 

As transportation demands continue to evolve, CITRIS recognizes the development of advanced air mobility (AAM) as a revolutionary shift that will change the way people and goods move. From the rapid emergence of companies developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aerial taxis, to the growing use of drones for consumer deliveries and emergency response, AAM technology will have massive impacts on the ways we think about transportation. 

The 2023–24 CITRIS Aviation Prize invited student teams to visualize that future today. Entrants had the opportunity to propose designs for groundbreaking systems that seamlessly integrate air mobility into campus life, fostering a safe, efficient and eco-friendly transportation network.

Objective

The goal of the competition was to develop a conceptual design of a complete air mobility system for your home campus with the following features:

  • Capable of transporting goods and people by air at least three times faster than ground transportation
  • Seamlessly integrates with or creates minimal disruption to current infrastructure, leading to a transportation hub that allows for smooth connections with ground-based transportation, such as shuttles, bikes and pedestrian pathways
  • Incorporates interconnectivity to other campuses
  • Has minimal impact to the environment and is sustainable and energy efficient, including renewable energy integration and environmental impact mitigation
  • Deployable within five years*

A complete air mobility system consists of i) fixed infrastructure for operations, ii) selection of vehicle technology from concepts available in the market or forthcoming, and iii) software for single-vehicle planning and scheduling. The proposed design should be scalable, so as to accommodate the potential growth of and increasing demand for campus-to-campus flights.

*The five-year deployment/integration goal is subject to regulatory approval.

Competition Structure

There were two phases in the competition.

Phase 1: Design Proposal (completed Nov. 17)

  1. Interested teams from each campus, including teams with members from multiple campuses, submit a design proposal outlining their vision for a complete air mobility system for their home campus. 
  2. A panel of expert judges reviews the proposals and recommends a number of teams to move on to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Detailed Design and Presentation (December through April)

  1. Each team selected in Phase 1 develops its designs in detail, incorporating feedback from the Phase 1 review, following instructions that will be provided.
  2. Each team participates in a monthly meeting with CITRIS Aviation to provide a design update.
  3. Each team showcases a preliminary design, midway through the design process.
  4. Each team presents its final design. A panel of expert judges assess the final designs and presentations, and recommend winners for awards.
  5. Awards and prizes will be given to teams based on performance, accomplishments and vision.

Eligibility

The competition was open to student teams from the four UC campuses affiliated with CITRIS and the Banatao Institute: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz.

Teams were required to include:

  • Two to seven students 
  • At least one undergraduate student; no more than two graduate students
  • One postdoctoral or faculty mentor

Proposal Guidelines

  • Proposals must be submitted as a PDF using a minimum 10-point font size with 1-inch margins. Phase 1 proposals are limited to three pages. 
  • You will be required to submit an approval form signed by your adviser, which you can download from the submission portal.

Proposals outlined the team’s vision for a complete air mobility system for their home campus, and include the following:

  • Overview of required features, which include:
    1. infrastructure for operations 
    2. selection of existing vehicle technology
    3. software for single-vehicle planning and scheduling
    4. architecture for connecting to the UC CITRIS campuses
  • Preliminary justification for the selection of these features, e.g., maximizing potential for intercampus connectivity, ease of integration with existing infrastructure
  • Preliminary plans for addressing each of the required features, including renderings of the associated architecture for connecting to the other UC campuses being connected.

Proposals selected for Phase 2 included the following elements:

  • Detailed description of required features for Phase 1
  • An implementation plan for the deployment of the proposed design that is aligned and compatible with existing and planned local campus infrastructure, including:
    1. Identification of key stakeholders, required regulatory changes, environmental impacts, funding strategies, and timelines.
    2. An estimated cost and timeline for the construction of physical designs, testing, and gathering feedback from users and stakeholders

Evaluation Criteria

Judges based their evaluations on how well the proposed design addressed the following key criteria:

  • Support of interconnectivity between the four CITRIS campuses
  • Utility and efficiency of proposed transportation solutions
  • Feasibility of implementation and integration with existing campus transportation infrastructure
  • Sustainability and minimization of environmental impact
  • Overall innovation of proposed vision
  • Cost-effectiveness of estimated budget (Phase 2 only)

Registration

Teams registered and submitted their proposals through a secure online portal. The 2023–24 CITRIS Aviation Prize has completed, and we are no longer accepting new proposals.

Timeline

  • Sept. 6, 2023: Team registration opens
  • Oct. 5, 2023: Virtual information session at 11 a.m.
  • Nov. 17, 2023: Phase 1 proposal submission deadline
  • Mid-December 2023: Phase 1 winners announced
  • January–May 2024: Monthly presentations to CITRIS Aviation for Phase 1 finalists
  • Early March 2024: Midpoint presentations
  • April 19, 2024: Phase 2 submission deadline
  • April 29, 2024: Final presentations, judging and awards ceremony

Prizes

At the end of the competition, the following prizes were awarded to participating teams:

  • Joby Aviation Award for Best Overall Design ($3,000)
  • Lenovo Sustainable Innovation Award ($3,000)
  • Lenovo Innovation in Air Mobility Excellence Award ($3,000)
  • Supernal Award for Most Innovative Design for Air Mobility ($3,000)
  • CITRIS Aviation Excellence Award ($1,500)

Sponsors

CITRIS and the Banatao Institute are grateful to Joby Aviation, Lenovo, Supernal, and the Monterey Bay Drone, Automation and Robotics Technologies (DART) Initiative for their support of the 2023–24 CITRIS Aviation Prize and our student innovators.

Logos for sponsors Joby Aviation, Lenovo, Supernal and Monterey Bay DART.

Contact

For questions or more information, please email aviationprize@citris-uc.org.

Info Session and FAQs

CITRIS held an info session about the 2023–24 Aviation Prize on Thursday, Oct. 5. Video of that presentation, including a Q&A session, is now available:

Frequently asked questions about the CITRIS Aviation Prize include:

Participating team members may be able to get academic credits in the form of capstone projects, independent study or thesis units, but you will need to coordinate this through the undergraduate or graduate departments at your respective campus. If you have questions about this, please email aviationprize@citris-uc.org.

The advanced air mobility sector includes numerous companies that are developing next-generation vehicles for the transportation of people and goods. The most common design focus has been on electric takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), while other companies are developing electric short takeoff and landing aircraft (eSTOL), electric airships and more. Successful design proposals should center around vehicles capable of transporting people, but you’re also encouraged to include infrastructure that can accommodate uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are being developed for the delivery of goods and emergency response.

Key companies developing vehicles in the AAM sector include:

  • Airbus
  • Ampaire
  • Archer Aviation
  • Beta Technologies
  • EHang
  • Electra
  • Elroy Air
  • Eve Air Mobility
  • Heart Aerospace
  • Jaunt Air Mobility
  • Joby Aviation
  • Lilium
  • Supernal
  • Universal Hydrogen
  • Vertical Aerospace
  • Volocopter
  • Wisk Aero
  • Wright Electric
  • ZeroAvia
  • Zipline

Proposals will be assessed by a panel composed of CITRIS Aviation researchers with a wide range of expertise in related fields, including aviation infrastructure development, autonomous systems, control systems, aerodynamics and uncrewed air systems (UAS) regulations.

For the purposes of this competition, a graduate student is defined as any student who is enrolled in a nonaccelerated master’s or doctoral program. Students enrolled in alternative post-baccalaureate programs (e.g. UC Berkeley’s MEng program or UC Santa Cruz’s Contiguous Pathways program) do not count toward the limit of two graduate students per team, and should be listed as undergraduates on your application.

No, proposals are encouraged to consider any vehicle technology being developed in the AAM sector. This could include hybrid or combustion-fueled vehicles, short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, airships, or others.

Proposals should focus on designs for only your campus, but should include recommendations for connectivity with other campuses. The goal is to develop designs that maximize the potential for future intercampus connectivity by including infrastructure that could potentially be developed at other campuses.

Yes, as long as the central campus is the primary focus of your design.

The software should allow for the planning and scheduling of more than one vehicle.

Systems should be open to the public. The primary goal of the designs is support of interconnectivity between campuses, which includes transportation for faculty, staff, visitors, etc.

While designs should focus on incorporating existing or planned industry vehicles, you may also include your own designs. To develop an efficient system, you may consider designing for a range of vehicles rather than a specific one.

Yes. All advisers must sign the adviser approval form found on the submission portal. If you have more than one adviser, you may compile multiple forms into a single PDF.

No. Including graduate students is encouraged but not mandatory.

Please email us once you have your team ready, and we will consider the request.

No, you may include additional pages for renderings as long as the text of your proposal is no more than three pages.

There is no defined minimum, but you should consider the efficiency of your proposed network while developing your design.