A team of aviation hobbyists from Canberra, Australia, has won this year’s UAV Outback Challenge, successfully delivering water to a pretend lost hiker in the Australian outback. The competition, which was launched in 2007, is designed to demonstrate potential civil applications for unmanned aerial vehicles. The competition is run by Queensland’s University of Technology and Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and sponsored by UAV and aerospace industry companies and organizations including Insitu Pacific, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, CASA, Mathworks, Stanwell and DSTO. It took place at Queensland’s Kingaroy Airport, with the objective to locate the stranded tourist (a dummy) in a 2nm x 3nm (3km x 5km) search area and deliver a 500ml bottle of water as close as possible to him.’
This year’s Outback Challenge saw 22 teams compete from around the world, including Australia, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, France and Colombia. Only four teams succeeded in dropping the bottle close to the hiker, with the Canberra UAV team dropping the water just 2.6m from “Outback Joe,” winning the AUD$50,000 first prize. Canberra UAV is a not-for-profit organization aimed at developing and promoting the civilian use of UAVs.
“We’re not aware of anyone else successfully using cost-effective UAVs for sophisticated search and rescue purposes such as this,” says Professor Jonathan Roberts from QUT’s Science and Engineering faculty who is the competition co-founder and head judge. “The fact that hobbyists have proved they can build a robotic aircraft capable of performing search and rescue missions gives hope that, one day, very cheap aircraft systems can be used widely by the emergency services and volunteers,” he adds.