UAV Challenge Mission Complete Team SWFA Drops Water to Outback Joe

Moments after I pressed the publish key on the last post Outback Joe is in Deep Shit, word came through that these two young brothers Ben & Daniel Dyer have managed to get their aircraft into the search zone, find Outback Joe and successfully drop him a 500ml bottle of water within 25m.

This is the first time this mission has been successfully accomplished in the history of the competition.

The brothers from Melbourne put their success down to lack of bad luck and simplicity of design both in the airframe and the release mechanism.

But not the software and flight control boards, turns out Daniel is an embedded systems engineer and Ben runs an enterprise Email company that sends over 1 billion emails a year. Between them they designed their own custom flight control boards which had a Texas Instruments DSP chip for autopilot and an ARM Xenix Quad Core Microcontroller running Linux for the image processing.

Unlike most of the other teams they decided the standard Ardupilot was not going to cut it for the lightweight wing design in heavier wind so they wrote their own autopilot software from scratch.

Given the disparity in the resources both financial, engineering and human between some of the teams, (Team Poland turned up with a Drone so impressive that looked like it had been stolen from the Polish Airforce and some of the other teams have guys who designed some of the autopilot software) this is an amazing result, congratulations guys.


Winners are Grinners – Credit

Have to think that they will knocking back job offers left right and center, well done guys.


UAV Outback Challenge – This week is UAV Week

UAV3This week Im off to the temporary UAV Capital of the world Kingaroy in Queensland Australia.

In a moment of craziness on Friday I agreed to drive Team Condor from Sydney to Kingaroy in QLD so they could get to the start line on Monday. Team Condor is made up of a group of Colombian (and I think one Brazilian) University Students, one of whom works on one of my hardware projects.

Team Condor

Team Condor

I will be live blogging and tweeting so follow me on Twitter @mikenicholls88

If you have never heard of the Outback Challenge, essentially it is one of the top UAV contests in the world with $50,000 prize money on offer to the winning teams. More than 80 teams applied earlier in the year, along the way they had to pass key milestones and send evidence to the competition committee to establish their aircraft was capable of passing the competition requirements and was able to compete.

Just over 20 teams actually qualified out of the 80+ including Team Condor.

There are a few categories but essentially it comes down to the following challenge.

Outback Joe is lost in the Australian outback and desperately needs assistance. You must develop a UAV that is capable of locating Outback Joe and delivering an emergency package to him.

Outback Joe

Outback Joe – Credit Outback Challenge

Teams have to take off from the Airport at Kingaroy, fly approximately 5 nautical miles to a search area of approximately 2nm x 2nm and then fly a search pattern to find Outback Joe, a dummy dressed in a Yellow high viz jacket. Outback Joe will be randomly placed in the search area.

Here is the tough bit, they can take off manually, but then have to engage autopilot to fly the aircraft to the search area and then using their autopilot, fly a search pattern to find Outback Joe.

They are live streaming video images back from their onboard cameras, however the winners of the competition will use computer vision software to locate Outback Joe from the surrounding country.

They must then report their location of Joe to the organisers who will then instruct them to drop a bottle of water from the UAV to Outback Joe.

You might think this sounds easy but in past years most teams could not do this.

I can assure you that a drone delivering Pizza, Beer or Amazon packages is not happening anytime soon, its all a PR Stunt. This is actually pretty difficult.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Follow me on the Twitter @mikenicholls88 this week to get updated stories, interviews and pictures of the competition.

PS I am driving the support vehicle for Team Condor,

On board we have a

  • Makerbot 2x 3d Printer
  • Mac with Solidworks CAD software,
  • Soldering Station with hot air gun
  • Dremel and drill press plus a bunch of tools,

We arrive Monday morning, if any of the teams need anything fixed or need to build something come see us.



Photo by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives