The end of the UAV Challenge – Mission Complete

Left: the final flight of the 2019 UAV Challenge, right: Outback Joe puts his feet up for now.

It is with great sadness that we are announcing the end of the current UAV Challenge series of events. The UAV Challenge was developed in 2005 with the first event held in Kingaroy, Queensland in 2007. At that time, the UAV industry was just beginning and the UAV Challenge was created to try and help develop, inspire and steer the industry. The UAV Challenge later held events in Calvert and Dalby with the event missions evolving as the industry and aircraft capabilities developed.

The goal of the UAV Challenge events was to demonstrate the utility of UAVs for civilian applications, particularly in applications focused on saving the lives of people. We did this by harnessing the ingenuity and passion of aero modelers, university students and high-school students around the world to develop novel and cost-effective solutions.

The initial UAV Challenge: Outback Rescue was developed to promote the significance of UAVs to Australia. It was a joint initiative between Queensland University of Technology (QUT) via the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA), and CSIRO. CSIRO and QUT have been joined by other partners during the years including the Queensland Government, Boeing/Insitu Pacific, Aviation Development Australia Limited and AUVS-Australia (now AAUS).

The creation of the UAV Challenge: Outback Rescue was a direct outcome from a workshop that ARCAA conducted in 2005. The workshop was called the “The Future of UAVs – Challenges and Applications in the Asia Pacific Region”. The UAV industry has come a very long way in the intervening 17 years, and we are pleased to observe that many of the objectives of the UAV Challenge have been achieved in that time.

The COVID-19 global pandemic of course meant that the 2020 and 2021 events could not take place. The pandemic also resulted in shifts in the priorities of the organisers, which means that we no longer have the capacity to run these exciting events.

We have loved every minute of the UAV Challenge. We are grateful to the many sponsoring organisations, the members of the various committees, the dozens of event volunteers, and to the thousands of people that have participated in the hundreds of teams. It has been a real pleasure and everyone contributed in a positive way to help push the industry forward. We are extremely proud that the challenges set to push the art of the possible are now routine operations, and many technologies and configurations that were novel to the UAV Challenge are mainstream. We would like to acknowledge and thank the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for going on the journey with us, enabling Australia to learn through flight experiences and lead the world in this exciting new sector.

Outback Joe can now take one final, hard-earned rest and hang up his hat, as we pass the baton onto you, the next generation of innovators and dreamers. Thank you.

Note: if any group or organisation is interested in taking on the UAV Challenge brand with the intention of developing a future competition, or series of competitions that further the development of UAVs for public good, then please get in touch.

No UAV Challenge events in 2021

We are sad to report that there will be no UAV Challenge events held in 2021 due to the ongoing issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is still very uncertain when quarantine-free international travel into Australia will recommence and when Australian high-schools will allow interstate trips for their students. The UAV Challenge organisers will reassess the situation in early 2022.

Drones For Good – Podcast


The UAV Challenge is the topic of the latest Drones For Good Podcast, Jonathan Roberts, co-inventor of the UAV Challenge, talks about the history of the event, what has happened over the years and what is coming up with the next UAV Challenge events. You can find the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for Drones For Good in your podcast app. And thanks to Andrew Crowe at Mirragin Unmanned Systems for creating this podcast series.

UAV Challenge wins the AAUS Industry Champion Leadership Award


An aircraft prepares top take off at the fist UAV Challenge event (2007 Kingaroy)

We are very excited to be selected as the winners of the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems (AAUS) Industry Champion Leadership Award for 2020. According to the AAUS, “the Leadership Award recognises individuals or organisations that lead the way with advocacy work that strives to improve the commercial and / or technological viability of the unmanned system industry.” We want to congratulate all the finalists and we feel very proud to win in such company.

The UAV Challenge has run since 2007 and over the years the event has grown and evolved as the quality and experience of teams improved, the technology developed (some by the teams themselves) and the UAV industry as we know it today was born.

The UAV Challenge was an idea of the late Rod Walker of QUT, Jonathan Roberts (then at CSIRO) and George Curran (also then at CSIRO). There were many motivations for creating the Challenge but the primary one was to assist in bringing UAVs into common place use in non-military domains (in 2007 the military had already begun commonly using UAVs).

We created two types of events. The first was a high-school event that aimed at giving school students learning experiences that would encourage them to think about a future career in the UAV industry. The second was an event open to anyone in the world where a grand challenge (seemingly impossible) would force teams to innovate and solve major technical and logistical issues that we knew were holding the UAV industry back. A common element in all the events has been Outback Joe, an accident-prone farmer from a remote part of Australia, but who loves UAVs and how they can be used to save him year on year.

The UAV Challenge has so far had over 700 teams with over 4,000 team members compete in 21 events (13 high-school and 8 open events). Those teams have come from over 40 countries and the UAV Challenge can say that we have had a positive impact on the use of UAVs in the civilian world.

The UAV Challenge would never have worked if it was not for the hard work of hundreds of people. The current co-organisers of the UAV Challenge are CSIRO Data 61 and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). We would like to thank the members of the Technical Committee (past and present), the many Judges (mainly from industry), our fellow founding organisations the Queensland Government and Boeing, our numerous sponsors, previous Steering Committee members, the event staff (many of whom were volunteers), the providers of the competition sites (including Kingaroy Airport, Dalby Model Aero Club, Calvert Radio Aero Modellers Society and Doug Browne), local governments (including Western Downs Regional Council, South Burnett Regional Council and Ipswich City Council), Boeing and Insitu Pacific Limited for their STEM activities, CASA (for their forward thinking and trust), the QUT and CSIRO staff that have worked at the events, Dennis Frousheger, Andy Keir, Brendan Williams, Ross Dungavell and Mick Molloy (all of whom have put in huge amount of work in their own time), Anthony Banks (from Muller College and who has attended every single event and fielded high-school teams at all of them), all the photographers that have taken the tens of thousands of official photos, our media supports (including the BBC, Channel Ten, ABC TV, ABC Radio, Channel 7, QANTAS inflight magazine) and of course all the teams that have entered over the past 14 years. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the families of the organisers who support us all while we disappear to do UAV Challenge things, or who have even come along themselves and volunteered.

We miss you Rod.


Co-inventor of the UAV Challenge, the late Professor Rod Walker at the first UAV Challenge event in 2007

UAV Challenge postponed until 2021


UAV Challenge organisers have today decided to postpone the 2020 UAV Challenge flying events until 2021. We will work through the more detailed planning in the next few weeks and will re-issue rules with updated timelines. Broadly speaking we will aim to hold the events in late September/early October 2021 – hopefully in Dalby. Medical Rescue registration and Deliverable 1 will be re-opened. For teams already given a Go decision at the Deliverable 1 checkpoint, your team will not need to resubmit D1. New teams will have a chance to enter and they will need to submit a D1 document (dates yet to be announced). There will be no High-School activities in 2020. We know that the whole world is working together to battle COVID-19 and we send our best wishes to you as we all tackle this crisis.

Rules released for 2020 Airborne Delivery Challenge


We are excited to announce that the rules for the next Airborne Delivery Challenge have just been released. The event will take place on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th September 2020 at Dalby Model Aero Club, 743 Cecil Plains Road, Dalby, Queensland Australia. The adult Medical Rescue event will take place at the same location immediately after.

Registration of teams is now also open and teams are encouraged to register as soon as possible. This will allow us to keep you up-to-date as we progress through the competition.

All the details of the 2020 Airborne Delivery Challenge, including the rules and registration, can be found on the High-School page.

Dates and location set for 2020 UAV Challenge events


UAV Challenge organisers are pleased to announce that the 2020 High-School Airborne Delivery Challenge will be held alongside the 2020 UAV Challenge Medical Rescue in Dalby, Queensland. The events will take place in the week beginning September 28, 2020. The Airborne Delivery Challenge event will run from Monday 28 to Tuesday 29 September and the Medical Rescue event will start on Tuesday 29 September and run through to Friday 2 October (this schedule has a built in bad weather contingency day).

The rules for the Airborne Delivery Challenge will be released in the coming weeks. Version 5 of the rules for Medical Rescue competition are now available here.

The venue will be held at the Dalby Model Aero Club, 743 Cecil Plains Road, Dalby, Queensland, Australia.

Mojave Hawks win the 2019 Queensland Government Airborne Delivery Challenge


The winners and place getters.

The 2019 UAV Challenge event concluded today in Calvert, Queensland, Australia, and the Winners of the Queensland Government Airborne Delivery Challenge were the Mojave Hawks from Pete Knight High School in California. The competition was incredibly close this year with the top four teams being separated by just 2.8 points with the winners scoring 92.4 points. Second place went to the Rescue Raccoons from Mueller College from Rothwell, Queensland. And third place went to the Wrong Brothers, a team from Marist College Ashgrove, Queensland.


The final scores and standings

The weather was fantastic and perfect for flying. All teams competed with an excellent spirit, even when some had crashes – a few into the hurdles that are a famous part of the Airborne Delivery Challenge. The new Innovation Award went to the Wrong Brothers team for their use of robotic vision onboard their UAV. The Insitu Pacific Airmanship Award went to Canberra UAV Junior Team, for demonstrating how to come back from major technical issues, dusting themselves off and continuing to compete in a professional way.


Insitu Pacific Airmanship Award winners Canberra UAV Junior (left) and the Innovation Award winners The Wrong Brothers (right).

The organisers of the UAV Challenge want to thanks all the teams, their teachers and mentors and their families for all their efforts in taking part in our event. A special thanks also to all the volunteers and staff that make the UAV Challenge possible.

The UAV Challenge in 2019 and 2020 is supported and sponsored by the Queensland Government, Insitu Pacific and Boeing, Northrop Grumman, the Australian Government’s Department of Defence, CASA, the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems, Nova Systems and QinetiQ. It is co-organised by CSIRO’s Data61 and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The 2019 UAV Challenge kicks off in Calvert

The 2019 UAV Challenge event started today in Calvert, Queensland, Australia. This year the event is a high-school only Airborne Delivery Challenge competition. Teams from around Australia and around the World are invited to develop and demonstrate a UAV-based system to deliver Outback Joe lifesaving medical supplies. This year we had 14 teams qualify for the event including teams from Queensland, the ACT and California.


The Marvels (left) and the Mojave Hawks (right)

The day started, as do all UAV Challenge events, with a briefing before teams took it in turns to present their proposed solutions to Aerospace industry judges. Teams were also scrutineered to ensure their aircraft were safe and the remote pilots in charge were capable of flying safely. The judges and scrutineers work hard all day and by about 2pm it was clear from the progress scores that this is going to be a tight competition this year.


The Wrong Brothers (left) and progress scores (right)

The rain that had greeted teams on their arrival cleared by lunchtime and competition flying began. By the end of the day, six teams had flown their first missions, leaving 8 teams to complete their first flights tomorrow morning. With a bit of luck, all teams will get a chance for a second flight tomorrow too.

The UAV Challenge in 2019 and 2020 is supported and sponsored by the Queensland Government, Insitu Pacific and Boeing, Northrop Grumman, the Australian Government’s Department of Defence, CASA, the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems, Nova Systems and QinetiQ. It is co-organised by CSIRO’s Data61 and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Event Co-Organiser: Data61 | CSIRO

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 2.06.27 pm

The UAV Challenge was co-founded and is co-organised by CSIRO’s Data61 and QUT. Without the constant support of CSIRO, the UAV Challenge would not be the success it is today.

CSIRO’s Data61 is Australia’s data innovation network that transforms existing industries and creates new ones through the application of science and technology. As an applied R&D partner, Data61’s capabilities range from cybersecurity, confidential computing, IoT, robotics, machine learning and analytics, software and programming to behavioural sciences and more.