Haran helps students create new RSO Illini Air Shuttle

4/22/2021 Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Illinois ECE Professor Kiruba Haran is helping a group of students create a new RSO called Illini Air Shuttle to develop affordable, zero emission, rapid transport between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago.

Written by Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Kiruba Sivasubramaniam Haran
Kiruba Sivasubramaniam Haran

Illinois ECE Professor Kiruba Sivasubramaniam Haran is helping a group of students create a new RSO called Illini Air Shuttle. This organization aims to develop affordable, safe, zero emission, rapid transport between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago. 

"We asked what it would take to have an affordable, safe, zero emission, air transport between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago," said Haran, a Grainger Associate. "This has caught the imagination of many students from across the engineering college, and some have stepped up to form the RSO and take initial steps towards technology demonstration."

Illini Air Shuttle initially started as a research project to develop a concept for electrical vertical-take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft. 

Illini Air Shuttle
Illini Air Shuttle

"Last August, we made the decision to transform the idea into an RSO," said Illini Air Shuttle President Nina Ayar. "This has given students from all years and a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to get involved with a seriously technical project in its beginning phases. It was really important to me to have an organization with no barriers to entry and to create a space for engineers to learn through hands-on experience."

Illini Air Shuttle could potentially serve as a substitute for senior design or a cross disciplinary engineering design course. The course would focus on the development of an Air Taxi with specific subsystems divided out based on student interests and backgrounds. 

"We had the idea to start the RSO because we know designing this air shuttle is a multidisciplinary task and needs passionate students from different majors," said ECE graduate student Jianqiao (Peter) Zhao. "This RSO would give the students a platform to work together while not placing too much pressure on getting a result." 

"I’ve been impressed by how much progress they’ve made in just over a year and am excited to see what they achieve going forward," added Haran. "They have already published a preliminary design and are planning to enter a competition organized by the AIAA and IEEE."

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This story was published April 22, 2021.