The Story Behind the FireFLY6 Paint Scheme

We strongly recommend that you listen to this song while reading this blog post.

A lot of people look back on college and wonder what the point was. We're definitely not in that camp. And on the heels of NC State's victory in a prestigious student aerobotics competition, we thought now would be a good time to let you in on a little secret while bragging about our alma mater. Because in all honesty, most of what we needed to know to bring the FireFLY6 to life ... we learned at NC State.

The senior year of the Aerospace Engineering program at NC State is a grueling design-build-and-fly program, where students are given an aircraft design problem, must demonstrate via analysis that their design will work by the end of the first semester, and then must build and fly a prototype in the second semester. If you don't fly, you fail.

The senior class of 2001-2002 was given the mammoth task of designing a blended wing body style aircraft capable of carrying up to 11 pounds of payload with a cruise speed of no less than 75 miles per hour, among other requirements. To accomplish this, the aircraft would need to be fitted with an AMT Mercury turbojet engine.

Our class of seniors was split into three teams of nine and each team set about the task in a different way. Team 2, our team, the team from which two would eventually go on to build BirdsEyeView Aerobotics, chose to call our aircraft Thunderstruck, a word that we felt encompassed our feelings for the magnitude of the project.

NC State Aerospace Engineering Senior Design, 2001-2002, Team 2

Thunderstruck was designed as a 9.4-foot wingspan, 42-pound, Kevlar and fiberglass monster of a blended wing body. Given that for most of us this was the first thing we would build beyond shelving for our dorm rooms, we kept it simple, taking design cues from the original NASA blended wing body concept and not doing anything too crazy with wing and airfoil design. The keep-it-simple mantra is one that has stayed with us, and although the FireFLY6 is a bit more advanced in terms of the aerospace building blocks that were used in its creation, we nod and smile when an onlooker says, "it actually looks so refined, it's simple."

But the real connection between the FireFLY6 and Thunderstruck is all in the paint. The paint scheme on the FireFLY6 harkens back to a bigger, jet-powered, composite flying wing designed and built on an average of three hours of sleep over an epic pair of semesters:


So today we salute the NC State Aerospace Engineering program (congrats to the Aerial Robotics Club on the win!) and Thunderstruck ... may the sound of your flyby always bring a tear to our eyes.

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