Australian UAV competition draws attention to civilian uses

Northrop Grumman put out a release today touting its sponsorship of the UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue, a joint effort between the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation and Australia’s national science agency. The goal of the competition is to grow the country’s civil UAV industry and raise awareness of civilian applications. Current Australian law makes it easier to obtain a operator certificate for unmanned systems than in many other countries, including the U.S., making the country a relatively friendly place for unmanned systems activity.

The challenge began in 2007 and consists of two parts: the Airborne Delivery Challenge and the Search and Rescue Challenge.

The Airborne Delivery Challenge, which is open only to students in Australian high schools, requires teams to deliver an emergency package to a lost “hiker” named Outback Joe (represented by a mannequin). The teams have 20 minutes to conduct up to three drops, with points awarded for landing the package as close as possible to the dummy. During an optional “search phase,” teams use their unmanned aircraft to read various symbols left by Outback Joe.

That competition took place last month in Calvert, Queensland, with 11 teams of Australian high school students participating. The prizes, in Australian dollars, were $5,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, $1,000 for third place and $2,000 for the winner of the search phase.

“The competition experience increased the students’ interest in science and technology and encourages them to think about pursuing careers in the aerospace industry,” Jonathan Roberts, co-chair of the UAV Challenge Steering Committee, said in a statement. “UAVs are of growing importance to Australia given its size. This technology is critical, whether for search and rescue or monitoring bush fires or floods.”

The Search and Rescue Challenge, which is open to university students and amateurs worldwide, will be held Sept. 22-26, 2014, in Kingaroy, Queensland. It has the same basic goal of delivering a package to Outback Joe; however, it includes significantly more stringent requirements, including specific size qualifications, and a larger prize of $50,000 Australian dollars. Students in this competition must also submit an autonomous flight record that shows their UAV has flown autonomously for at least five hours.

More information about the events is available at their official site: UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue.

The competitions are supported by the Queensland Government, Aviation Development Australia Limited and the Australian Association of Unmanned Systems. In addition to Northrop Grumman, corporate sponsors include Insitu Pacific, Boeing Research & Technology – Australia, Mathworks and UAS Pacific.

[ photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp. ]