Witsies taxi to next round of global contest

A team of Witsies is one of only three African teams shortlisted for a global aviation competition with a R330 000 prize.

The team, who call themselves Stormhawks, hope their idea ‘to improve the eco-efficiency and sustainability of the aviation industry’ will be the best, and win them a cool €30,000 (R330 000). The prize money will be awarded by Airbus in its biennial Fly Your Ideas competition.

The team members are Pitso Mangoro, Azhar Cassim (both 4th year Aeronautical Engineering), Tshireletso Mango (4th year Electrical Engineering), Sambharthan Cooppan (Masters in gas dynamics) and Muhammed Dangor (Masters in control).

They are proposing a hybrid visible light communication system for aircraft control, which involves transmitting data in planes in the form of light instead of the current system that is through electrical wires.

The Stormhawks expect that this will reduce the weight of aircrafts and lower fuel consumption, to reduce carbon emissions. It could also make aircraft assembly quicker and maintenance easier.

Mangoro, who is the team leader, and his four colleagues were the only ones willing to participate in the competition. They chose each other for their individual strengths and fields of expertise, and said Wits has encouraged teamwork throughout their degrees.

Mangoro came up with this idea and said there was nothing stopping bigger firms from ‘stealing’ it.

“We have not yet considered such a possibility and would rely on such a firm’s integrity and morals in not committing such an action.”

Clear to land: The Stormhawks from Wits have been assigned an Airbus expert to support them as they race to finalize their idea before the April 12 deadline. Photo courtesy of the Stormhawks

Clear to land: The Stormhawks from Wits have been assigned an Airbus expert to support them as they race to finalise their idea before the April 12 deadline.
Photo: Provided


The Wits team are among 100 teams from around the world put through to the next round of the competition. The other two African teams hail from Nigeria and Kenya.

The competition is backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and European aviation giant Airbus.

The 100 teams still face another elimination round before the final five present their idea to a panel of Airbus and industry experts in Hamburg, Germany on June 12. The awards ceremony will take place the following day at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Mangoro said they would share the prize money equally if they win, and use some of it to tour Europe before returning to South Africa.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 2nd edition, 15th February 2013.