Day 4 of the UAV Challenge 2018

Did we say that yesterday at the UAV Challenge was good? Well today may have been even more amazing. Today was the day when we aimed to let at least five teams fly their missions in the 2018 Medical Express Challenge. In the end, six teams flew.


MelAvio setting up their aircraft (left), take-off (right).

First to fly today were MelAvio Avionics Club from Poland. Their impressive looking aircraft was brought out onto the field only for the team to have to take it back undercover due to a sudden deterioration in the weather. We had a 30 minute weather hold and started again. After the restart, MelAvio began their engine testing only to find that there were issues with the running of the main petrol engine (used for the forward flight portion of their mission). They worked bravely for over half an hour to try and fix the issue and finally launched their aircraft into the air. But it soon became apparent to them that there were still issues with the engine and they decided to call it and land and not continue. This was a great piece of airmanship. Safety first!


Forward Robotics used two planes for their mission attempt (left) but had issues with both (right).

Next up was Forward Robotics from Canada. They were returning from 2016 when they first showed off their amazing looking aircraft. They had two years of updates and practice and were another hot favourite to complete the mission. The first aircraft took off well and headed down range. But the second aircraft had an issue immediately after take off and did not head into the range. The team decided to abort the mission and manually land the second aircraft. The first aircraft then landed outside of the Base area due to a technical issue and their mission was over.


ISAAC UAV completing pre-flight checks (left) managed a short flight (right) before having to abort the mission.

The third team for the day was ISAAC UAV from Thailand. They brought a helicopter to the last Medical Express event in 2016 but this year decided to use a quadplane. They seemed extremely well prepared (as they were in 2016). Their set up took a little bit longer than they hoped and they used up some of their 60 minute mission time completely all their final checks. The aircraft performed a take off and headed off down the range but a loss of one of their communication links meant that the aircraft’s return to home behaviour kicked in. The aircraft flew straight back to the Base and was manually landed by the safety pilot. The team tried again but they encountered another issue that meant the aircraft took off but then simply hovered. They aborted the mission and their UAV Challenge was at an end.


One of MAVLab’s Delftacopters with the giant antenna mast behind it (left) and the broken aircraft recovered by one of the judges at the farm (right).

MAVLab TUDelft, from The Netherlands, were up next and they decided to use an elevated work platform to extend their antenna height and hence communication range. The work platform was parked next to the ground station area and held the team’s main radio antenna. They also had an Iridium (satellite) link. The set up went smoothly and the take off seemed very straight forward. The team even brought some lunch to have while waiting for their aircraft to complete the mission. A technical issue with the GPS location feed they were supplying to the judges meant that the Dynamic No Fly Zone part of the competition could not be fully completed, although the aircraft was seen to be avoiding obstacles as it transited past the Base. Once at the farm, the aircraft automatically detected Joe’s target and initiated its landing sequence. Then disaster struck! As it slowly descended the main rotor switched off prematurely, roughly 1.5m above the ground, and the aircraft fell to the ground with the impact breaking the wing structure. The judges and scrutineers at the farm immediately declared that the aircraft was not fit to take off again (they saw the wing bent 45 degrees before they made it safe) and so the mission was over.


The Griffin UAV team watching their aircraft as it autonomously flies its mission (left) and their aircraft approaching landing back at the Base (right).

The number five team for Thursday were Griffin UAV from Thailand. This was there first UAV Challenge event and it was clear to the judges from the way the team walked onto the field that they were professional but also determined to enjoy their mission time. They had a single aircraft attempting the mission and their set up and pre-flight checks went well. The aircraft was cleared for take off and immediately headed to Waypoint 1 at the south of the range. All systems appeared to be operating normally and the aircraft came back towards the Base, swung around (as it is supposed to do) and headed off to Outback Joe’s farm. The mission up to this point was fully autonomous. The judges and scrutineers at the farm reported the aircraft’s successful arrival overhead. At this point the aircraft itself or the team (it is not clear as we write this) decided that there was not enough battery life to perform a remote landing and subsequent take off and get back to the Base to complete the mission. So instead the aircraft took some photos of the farm and returned directly to the Base without Outback Joe’s blood sample. The aircraft landed properly at the Base, delighting the team and the crowd that they still had a fully functioning aircraft. Griffin UAV had a lot to be proud of.


Team Dhaksha take to the Dalby skies (left) and the team after the recovery of the blood sample (right).

At this point in the day, the team JetStream from Poland elected to go to the end of the flight queue and that made Team Dhaksha from India next. They were given their 15 minute warning to get ready and starting organising. This team has two very unusual hybrid multirotor aircraft. Each have a petrol engine that power a generator for the electric motors. They report flight times for these aircraft at between 3 and 4 hours! The crowd was very eager to see how they performed. Team Dhaksha elected not to compete for the Extension Autonomy Challenge but instead focussed on completing the mission full autonomously. Both aircraft took off autonomously. The retrieval aircraft headed off down the range and the support communications relay aircraft parked itself about 30m above and to the side of the flying field, where it remained for the rest of the mission. The mission proceeded in a complete hands off fashion. The retrieval aircraft completed the first leg, swung around the Base and headed to the farm.

On arrival at the farm it began searching for Outback Joe’s target and reported that it had done so and that it had initiated a landing. The judges and scrutineers confirmed that it appeared to be landing in a safe location and so the aircraft was left to complete its landing. But it then became clear that it was well away from the 10m distance from the target that it needed to be for Team Dhaksha to officially complete the mission. The aircraft landed 35.6m away in the next field to where the target was lying.  The scrutineer at the farm placed Outack Joe’s blood sample in the landed aircraft and pushed the arm button. Sixty seconds later, the aircraft autonomously took to the air and headed back the way it had come. Both aircraft successfully landed autonomously after the retrieval aircraft completed the full mission distance (approximately 24 nautical miles). The mission was over and full autonomy had been used throughout. Even though the mission was not successfully completed due to the 10m rule, it was a remarkable achievement. Hats off to Team Dhaksha!


Autonomous flight – check! Autonomosu take-off and landing – check! Outback Joe’s blood sample – check! The Dhaksha approaching their returned retrieval aircraft.

We have just two more teams to fly tomorrow. They are the High Flyers and JetStream, both teams are from Poland. Friday maybe another epic day at the UAV Challenge. We certainly hope so. Stay tuned…


Day 3 of UAV Challenge Week 2018


One of Sky High’s winning drops in the Airborne Delivery Challenge.

What a great day! Day 3 of the UAV Challenge week was a fantastic success. The first few hours were devoted to the high-school student teams competing in the Airborne Delivery Challenge. You can find a full summary of that competition here. The winning team was Sky High from William J. “Pete” Knight High School in Palmdale California.

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The two blood samples from Outback Joe that were recovered at the Base after being transported by UAV from Joe’s farm.

The remainder of the day was dedicated to the first mission flights of Medical Express teams. The weather was ideal and we hoped that three teams would get to fly and complete their missions. By the end of the day we did indeed see Monash UAS, Canberra UAV and West Coast UAV all fly their missions.


UAV ahoy (left) and the blood sample removed from Monash UAS’s retrieval aircraft at the end of the mission flight (right).

First up in the Medical Express Challenge were Monash UAS. Their very large team were highly organised and started off extremely well. Their two aircraft took off autonomously and both headed down the range. The communications relay aircraft stayed close to Waypoint 1 for the rest of the mission while the retrieval aircraft flew to Outback Joe’s farm. Impressively, the aircraft automatically found the target that had been put out by Outback Joe and landed just 5.6m from it. Until that point, the team had run the mission totally hands-free. But a problem was spotted by the team that meant that the landed aircraft could not be reactivated by Outback Joe at the farm (as per the rules) and so the team intervened and commanded the aircraft to take-off and return to the Base. Both aircraft came into land fully autonomously and the blood sample was successfully transport from the farm to the Base. This was a great effort by the team but they did not complete the mission.


Canberra UAV’s retrieval aircraft searching for the target at the farm (left) and the blood sample retrieved at the end of the mission at the Base (right).

The second team to fly was Canberra UAV. They had come first in the last competition in 2016 and are one of the favourites to complete the mission this year. This year, the Challenge is tougher than it was in 2016 as the organisers have added an optional Extension Autonomy Challenge – sponsored by Defence Science and Technology Group. Canberra UAV elected to tackle this extra challenge which involves their aircraft having to re-plan its route live while it encounters up to 32 virtual dynamic flying obstacles such as other aircraft, bad weather or birds. These obstacles are known as Dynamic No Fly Zones and they are fed into the UAV’s ground station as a simulated radar feed.

The mission for Canberra UAV started with an issue relating to the tuning of the petrol engine of their retrieval aircraft. After some troubleshooting, the team managed to fix the issue and start their mission flight. But they had used some of their 60 minutes of mission time to fix their issue. The team was really up against the clock. The retrieval aircraft made fantastic progress to the farm while the communications relay aircraft remained on station close to the Base. On route to the farm, the team reported a technical issue onboard the retrieval aircraft that resulted in an inability to geo-reference the images of Outback Joe’s target. Canberra UAV’s Andrew (Tridge) worked to fix the issue but in the end manually geo-referenced the target location, and the aircraft landed over 20m from the target. This meant that the team could not complete the mission as a team must land its aircraft within 10m of the target to qualify for a completed mission.  The judges at the farm loaded the blood sample int the aircraft and reactivated it, allowing it to autonomously take-off and return to the Base. Both Canberra UAV completed autonomous landings.

What did go right for Canberra UAV was their ability to successfully re-plan their flight and avoid the Dynamic No Fly Zones. Their aircraft navigated all things thrown at them in an incredible performance that impressed the judges. Even though Canberra UAV did not complete the mission, they did show that it is possible to autonomously navigate in extremely challenging environments.


Watching their aircraft on the range (left) and the auto launch of one of the West Coast UAV’s unmanned aircraft (right).

The final team that got to fly today was West Coast UAV. The team had modified their system from the one they entered in 2016 competition by launching both aircraft autonomously from a catapult launcher. The team’s aircraft flew in formation down to Waypoint 1 and back to the Base before heading towards the farm. Up until that point of the mission, the operation was totally hands-off. Then disaster struck. The retrieval had some sort of technical failure and came down in the range. The team decided to let their imaging aircraft continue to the farm to hunt for the target. Unfortunately that aircraft did not find the target and was commanded to fly back to the Base. On the way the team realised that they could use their aircraft to search for their missing retrieval aircraft and so a search began around its last known location. In the end, that search did not find the aircraft and the imaging aircraft was commanded back to the Base where it performed an autonomous landing.

The flying order for tomorrow is as follows:

MelAvio Avionics Club
Forward Robotics
MAVlab TUDelft
Griffin UAV
Team Dhaksha

with the High Flyers electing to fly at the end. Note that as High Flyers have been given an opportunity to fly but have elected to move the the back of the queue, an additional day of flying (Saturday) will not be activated for them if they do not get an opportunity to fly by the end of Friday.

Tomorrow will be another very big day for the UAV Challenge and the organisers wish all the teams the best of luck.


Team Sky High win the 2018 Queensland Government Airborne Delivery Challenge


Winners Sky High (left) and Second Place Blue Birds (right) receiving their certificates and trophies from Rita Borzelleca from the Queensland Government.

Day 3 of UAV Challenge Week saw the completion of the Queensland Government Airborne Delivery Challenge. The event was partially delayed yesterday due to bad weather but today was a beautiful day, from start to finish. The last six teams down the running order took to the field at 7.30am in ideal conditions. In the end it was quite a close contest.

The winner (and also best Rookie Team) was Sky High from William J. “Pete” Knight High School in Palmdale California. The secret of their success was three great drops. Their accuracy was fantastic and they achieved drops of 3.62m, 0.18m and 1.04m. One of those drops was gentle enough not to exceed the impact limit and that was enough to put them first place.

Second place went to Blue Birds, also from William J. “Pete” Knight High School. They also did three accurate drops, though all of them impacted above the 75G “survival” limit.


Third place team, PHS Falcons (left) and the Insitu Pacific Airmanship Award winners, the Millennium Falcons receiving their award from Brendan Williams from Boeing (right).

In third place was PH Falcons from Palmdale High School in California. Their best drop was 0.4m.

The Insitu Pacific Airmanship Award was given to the Millennium Falcons for their professionalism and great team attitude.


The final scores of the 2018 Queensland Government Airborne Delivery Challenge

The organisers were impressed by the teams that did not score so well but used automatic dropping systems. It is great to see high-school teams implementing these systems and we are sure that these will improve in the future.

Team photos will be posted in the coming weeks. The organisers would like to thank the teams for the great spirit in which they competed and the event sponsors for their continued support.


Millennium Falcons preparing to fly.

This year our Gold Sponsors were the Queensland Government, Boeing, Insitu Pacific, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Defence Science and Technology Group, and our Bronze Sponsor was The Mathworks. The event was co-organised by Queensland University of Technology (The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision) and CSIRO’s Data61.

We could not run these events without this generous support and also the volunteer support of many others who commit many hours of their time to the UAV Challenge.

Day 2 of UAV Challenge Week 2018


A windy overnight “flying” incident (left), the team currently known as {insert_team_name_here} take to the field (right).

We all had a huge day out at Dalby Model Aero Club today. There was wind, rain, lightning and some great flying by our high-school teams. We always knew that Day 2 would be a complicated day. The day was planned as the flying day for the Airborne Delivery Challenge and the scrutineering day for the Medical Express Challenge.

Teams and organisers arrived to find that the overnight wind had done a bit of damage to the small tents we use to shield the competitors and judges. The wind conditions were above the limit set out in the Airborne Delivery rules and so the high-school teams had to wait until mid-morning when the wind finally dropped and they could fly.


MUROC Titans doing their pre-flight checks (left), Precision Air with super star Outback Joe (right).

First up were {insert_team_name_here}, High Flyers and Dickson sUAVé. All of them did a great job considering the long wind delay. It was great to see some auto dropping of the Impact Monitor to Outback Joe. MUROC Titans were up next but their flight was interrupted by rain and the competition was paused for nearly three hours while the Dalby region got a well-needed soaking (7mm). The Titans started again after the delay and managed three drops using a novel winch-like delivery mechanism. The team from Aragon High School in California came out next, followed by Precision Air from Noosa District High School. And then the wind returned. We called it a day and will be back to fly the remaining six teams first thing in the morning (Southwest Aircorp, Team Hybrid, Millennium Falcons, PHS Falcons, Sky High and Blue Birds).


Team Dhaksha from India (left) and the judges interviewing High Flyers – Academic Scientific Association team (right)

In the Medical Express Challenge, the teams arrived and set up their aircraft ready for scrutineering and their interview with the judges. We have eleven teams competing this year and all have now arrived. The scrutineers and judges had a very long but productive day checking the UAVs and quizzing the teams to ensure that everything is ready to go for the flights over the next few days. This is the first year that the UAV Challenge Medical Express event is operating officially as a Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) operation.

The running order for the Medical Express teams is:

Monash UAS
High Flyers
Canberra UAV
West Coast UAV
MelAvio Avionics Club
Forward Robotics
MAVlab TUDelft
Griffin UAV
Team Dhaksha

Tomorrow we hope that the weather will be far kinder and we will complete the Airborne Delivery Challenge and start the competition flights for Medical Express. It is going to be another busy day for Outback Joe.

Day 1 of UAV Challenge Week 2018


The Dalby sky never gets boring.

What a great day out at Dalby Model Aero Club! We have just completed the first day of our week at the UAV Challenge in Dalby, Queensland. The day was devoted to the Airborne Delivery Challenge students. This year the teams come from the USA, South Korea and Australia. Each team presented to the judges and had their UAVs and ground control systems inspected by the scrutineers. They got to do some test flying too.


The MUROC Titans (left) and Outback Joe (right).

After Day 1, the competition is very close. Teams score points for the quality of their technical reports, presentations and how well they did during the static scrutineering. At this point, Aragon High School are in the lead, with the team known as {insert_team_name_here} and the MUROC Titans closely behind.


Tomorrow will be a big day with the competition flights of the Airborne Delivery Challenge teams and the arrival and scrutineering of the Medical Express teams.


Dickson sUAVé (left) and Paola and Mina, two team members from Sky High (right).

Remember that you can follow the UAV Challenge via the UAV Challenge Live Facebook Page.

The UAV Challenge is sponsored by the Queensland Government, Insitu Pacific and Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Australia, Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group and MathWorks. It is co-organised by Queensland University of Technology (supported by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision) and CSIRO’s Data61.

UAV Challenge week starts tomorrow

The 2018 UAV Challenge week begins tomorrow in Dalby, Queensland, Australia. We have a very big week planned with the Airborne Delivery Challenge up first. High-school teams from around the world will aim to save Outback Joe with their UAVs. The students will present to the judges Monday and perform their competition flights on Tuesday. The Airborne Delivery Teams are as follows:

Aragon High School (Aragon High School, California, USA)
Bluebirds (William J. “Pete” Knight High School, California, USA)
Dickson sUAVe (Dickson College, ACT, Australia)
High Flyers (Rochdale State High School, Queensland, Australia)
{insert_team_name_here} (William J. “Pete” Knight High School, California, USA)
Millennium Falcon (California, USA)
MUROC Titans (Mueller College, Queensland, USA)
PHS Falcons (Palmdale High School, California, USA)
Precision Air (Noosa District High School, Queensland, Australia)
Sky High (William J. “Pete” Knight High School, California, USA)
Southwest Aircorp team (North London Collegiate School Jeju, South Korea)
Team Hybrid (iLEAD Lancaster Charter School, California, USA)

We know that most of the adult teams have already arrived in Dalby for the Medical Express event that will begin on Tuesday. Those teams will be aiming to complete one of the most challenging aerial robotics competitions ever devised. The first team will attempt the mission starting early Wednesday morning. The Medical Express Teams are as follows:

Canberra UAV (Australia)
Forward Robotics (Canada)
Griffin UAV (Thailand)
High Flyers (Poland)
ISAAC UAV (Thailand)
JetStream (Poland)
MAVlab TUDelft (The Netherlands)
MelAvio Avionics Club (Poland)
Monash UAS (Australia)
Team Dhaksha (India)
West Coast UAV (Australia)

Everyone is welcome to come and watch the events. Entry is free and there is plenty of parking. The UAV Challenge 2018 events will be held at the Dalby Model Aero Club, 743 Cecil Plains Road, Dalby, Queensland, Australia.

UAVC 2018 Schedule 20180822

The UAV Challenge is sponsored by the Queensland Government, Insitu Pacific and Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Australia, Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group and MathWorks. It is co-organised by Queensland University of Technology (supported by the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision) and CSIRO’s Data61.