CSU 3D-Printed Fixed-Wing Aircraft Competition

California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) will host the 2nd Annual CSU 3D-Printed Fixed-Wing Aircraft Competition (C-3DPAC) on May 18, 2024, at its Jesse Owens Track and Field Complex on campus.


October 1, 2023 Registration Opens
For information or to be placed on a mailing list, email [email protected]
March 30, 2024 Registration Deadline
April 30, 2024 Design Competition Submission Deadline
May 18, 2024 Flight Competition @ Jesse Owens Stadium and Jesse Owens Track and Field, Cal State LA. 


3D_airplane_competition_student hold plane


In this competition, students design and fabricate airplanes using 3D printing technology. The planes need to be lightweight, and the designs need to maximize performance given manufacturing and material constraints- a great opportunity to leverage modern digital manufacturing technologies.



The airplanes can be any size but will need to satisfy strict manufacturing conditions with all airframe components, including all aerodynamic surfaces and control surfaces, printed using a purely (not hybrid) 3D printing technology. (Propellers are to be commercial off-the-shelf technology.)

aircraft hand illustration with 3d printer

Student Challenge

  • Develop a lightweight, 3D printable airframe
  • Integrate design and manufacturing to maximize performance
  • Design within the 3D printing process and material constraints
  • Leverage direct digital manufacturing technologies 


This competition comprises three parts: a flight competition, a design competition, and a design simulation. Each is judged and awarded independently a first and second prize. A Grand Prize will also be awarded to the team with the highest composite score.


Every institution participating must fill out an entry form. One entry form may include multiple teams from the same institution. If an additional team needs to register, the institution may fill out a second entry form but must include all the attachments. Each entry must include the following information. NOTE: CSU campuses do not need to submit general liability and drone insurance certificates, but they are required to complete the remainder of the competition application.

  • Insurance Compliance
  • TEAMS: Student info
  • TEAMS: Advisor info
  • TEAMS: Student pilot info
  • Aircraft Description

Rules & Requirements

The competition steering committee (composed of faculty from Cal State LA, San Diego State, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and CETYS – Tijuana) work together to establish the rules and logistics for the competition.   Please contact the organizer if you have any questions at [email protected]

Competition Rules

Updates for the 2024 competition will be posted in September 2023.
The rules will be very similar to those in 2023, plus the addition of the simulation event

  • Aircraft must be presented for eligibility evaluation between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. on the check-in date prior to the competition.
  • Aircraft must be launched by hand or take off under their own power. Catapults or other launching devices may not be used.
  • Timing starts when the aircraft is no longer in contact with the ground or the hand that launches it and stops when any part of the aircraft touches the ground.
  • Teams are allowed 3 flight attempts, with the best flight time recorded as the official time. Aircraft that are not ready to fly at the appointed time will forfeit that flight attempt.
  • Aircraft repair is allowed between flights using adhesive, and 3D printed components but not tape or other non-3D printed repair methods. Teams may use multiple aircraft of identical design and fabrication across flight attempts. Aircraft must be flown in the same configuration for each flight.
  • Timing and judging will be performed by a panel of faculty and industry professionals that will have sole and final authority and discretion for verifying eligibility, measuring performance, evaluating the safety, and resolving disputes.
  • Any protests regarding aircraft or flight validity must be made in a timely manner.

  • All design competition entries must also be entries in the Flight Competition.
  • All design, analysis, and fabrication of the competition entry is the sole responsibility of the student team members. Student teams are responsible for all costs incurred.
  • All design work must be performed by undergraduate or graduate students enrolled full-time during at least one of the preceding Fall, Spring, or Summer terms at an accredited college or university. 3D printing may be performed by non-team members or non-student personnel.
  • Students may only participate on a single team. Faculty advisors may advise more than one team.
  • Teams may have up to 6 members. Team members must be undergraduate, or graduate students enrolled full-time during at least one of the preceding Fall, Spring, or Summer terms at an accredited university.

  • Award funds are distributed among winning team members.  
  • Winning team members must complete the required paperwork within 2 weeks of the event date in order to receive award funds.  
  • Team leads are responsible for ensuring all team members receive the required paperwork.  
  • Award funds will only be disbursed if there are at least 3 valid entries in a competition category. 
  • Each team must register at /ecst/aircraft-competition by the registration deadline. 
  • Each team must complete the submission details at /ecst/aircraft-competition by the submission deadline to be eligible for the Most Innovative Design Prize. 
  • Design Innovation Awards are based on submitted design reports received before the published submission deadline following the template provided on the competition website. 

In consideration of receiving permission to operate a small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the airspace of California State University, Los Angeles, I hereby, knowingly and voluntarily, for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, agree to indemnify, release, and hold harmless Cal State L.A. University Auxiliary Services, Inc. and California State University, Los Angeles, as well as their administrators, instructors, volunteers, agents, officers, successors and trustees and assigns, from any and all liability associated with the operation of this UAS, and the collection or use of images, video or audio obtained by the UAS during its flight, including but not limited to liability for claims, causes of action, or lawsuits, for bodily injury, personal or advertising injury, wrongful act, property damage, breach of contract, or consequential loss resulting in damages, judgments, settlements, or any monetary loss, including attorney’s fees.

Contact Nidavone Niravanh, Executive Director, Risk Management and Environmental, Health and Safety Office, via email at [email protected] with insurance or indemnification questions. Please click on the Cal State LA UAS application form link below. Complete all sections, then upload the document during registration.

Download Indemnification Form

Teams from campuses of California State University

· Teams from CSU do not need to submit general liability and drone insurance certificates, but they are required to complete the competition application.

Teams from other institutions

· Insurance Instructions: Please upload your university's certificate of insurance for commercial general liability (CGL) and aircraft liability naming Cal State LA, the University Auxilery Services, Inc. (UAS), and the Trustees of California State University as additional insured. The limits are $1,000,000 and $3,000,000 for CGL and $1,000,000 for aircraft liability. The certificate of insurance shall cover the date of the event, May 20, 2023.

Please upload the required insurance information during registration.

Contact Nidavone Niravanh, Executive Director, Risk Management and Environmental, Health and Safety Office, via email at [email protected] with insurance or indemnification questions.

You may find the following websites helpful for your drone insurance needs.

Aircraft Rules

(COMPONENTS) 3D-Printed Construction 

  • All airframe components, including all aerodynamic surfaces and control surfaces, must be printed using purely (not hybrid) 3D printing technology.
  • For safety reasons, propellers and rotors should be commercial off-the-shelf hardware.
  • Assembly hardware, hinges, actuators, systems components, etc., do not need to be 3D printed.
  • Tape may be used as a mechanical device (e.g., a hinge) but not as a structural attachment at a joint. 

(CONFIGURATION) Size-Weight and Material Restrictions 

  • There are no size, configuration, weight, or material restrictions except that no lighter-than-air methods may be used (e.g., no helium).
  • The aircraft shall be fundamentally safe.  No hazardous configurations or materials may be used.

(POWER & CONTROL) Aircraft Power/Control Limitations 

  • Aircraft may be unpowered, or they may be powered with a motor and propeller.
  • Rocket motors, external flames, and compressed gas (e.g., CO2) canisters are not permitted.
  • Aircraft may be powered for a maximum continuous duration of 8 seconds (i.e., no pulsing or intermittent operation). A flight that exceeds this duration will be disallowed.
  • Aircraft may be controlled or uncontrolled.  Flights must operate safely within a 300 x 160-foot area (i.e., soccer field) and remain under 35 feet. A flight attempt in which an aircraft violates these boundaries for a duration longer than 3 seconds (per event, not cumulative) will be disallowed. 


Does the vehicle's overall design need to be an original design, or can an existing concept be used?

  • An existing concept design may be used, but the detailed design should be your own

Can teams shave off or manipulate the 3D-printed part?

  • 3D printed parts may be post-processed with finishing operations such as filing or sanding, but no non-3D printed materials may be added to the airframe during post-processing

Our Sponsor

We are grateful to our generous sponsor, Onshape, for making this event possible.

onshape logo




We would like to acknowledge the support of our partners,
San Diego State University, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CETYS Universidad- Campus Tijuana, California State University, Los Angeles, College of ECST,
Emilio Flores-Photos, and Natalie Leonnig Photos

The C-3DPAC competition was originally modeled after the successful 3DPAC competition held at the University of Texas.

Contact Mike Thorburn, ECST Capstone Director, at [email protected] for sponsorship opportunities.


When you attend a California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) event, you enter an area where photography, audio recording, and video recording may occur. By entering the event premises, you consent to such media recording and its release, publication, exhibition, or reproduction to be used for news, webcasts, promotional purposes, telecasts, advertising, and inclusion on websites. You further waive all rights you may have to any claims in connection with any exhibition, streaming, webcasting, televising, or other publication of these materials, regardless of the purpose or sponsoring of such exhibiting, broadcasting, webcasting, or other publication.

Design and Innovation Competition San Diego State, Hot-End Aeronautics Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, SLO Flyers
Flight Competition San Diego State, Hot-End Aeronautics Cal State LA, Aero Eagles United


California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) hosted the 1st CSU 3D-Printed Fixed-Wing Aircraft Competition on May 20, 2023, at its Jesse Owens Track and Field Complex on campus. This event is modeled after the successful event hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington. In 2024, there will be an additional competition for Best Simulation and a prize for best overall entry.

2023 Competition

CSU 3D-Printed Fixed-Wing Aircraft Competition


For questions or sponsorship inquiries, please contact
Mike Thorburn, Cal State LA, at  [email protected]