The Outback Challenge

Outback Joe

Outback Challenge Logo







The UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue, often referred to as simply the UAV Outback Challenge, began in 2007 and has been held every year since (except for 2011 when the organizers decided to give teams an additional year to prepare so the 2011 UAV Outback Challenge became the 2012 UAV Outback Challenge.). The event is aimed at promoting the civilian use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the development of low-cost systems that could be used for search and rescue missions.The competition is a cooperative effort between the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA)(a partnership between CSIRO and Queensland University of Technology), Aviation Development Australia Limited, AUVS-Australia and the Queensland State Government. From 2007 to 2009 the event was also co-organised with Boeing Defence Australia. There is a thorough scoring system with a clear emphasis on safety, capability and technical excellence.

The event was born out of a workshop (“The Future of UAVs – Challenges and Applications in the Asia Pacific Region”) conducted by ARCAA in 2005. The aim of the workshop was to develop a plan which would allow the Australian civilian UAV industry to grow as well as to raise awareness of the various potential civilian applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Partners involved in the overall management of the UAV Outback Challenge are from the higher education sector, research and development sector, aerospace industry, Queensland Government agencies, and local Government councils.

The event is one of the largest robotics challenges in the world and one of the highest stakes UAV challenges, with $50,000 on offer to the winner of the Search and Rescue segment of the Challenge. The Challenge takes place in Kingaroy, Queensland, Australia at the airport.


sUASnews Outback Challenge Pages:

2007 UAV Outback Challenge

2008 UAV Outback Challenge 

2009 UAV Outback Challenge

2010 UAV Outback Challenge 

2011 UAV Outback Challenge (High School Airborne Delivery Challenge only)

2012 UAV Outback Challenge

2013 UAV Outback Challenge (High School Airborne Delivery Challenge only)

2014 UAV Outback Challenge 


Below you will find a description of both the Search and Rescue Challenge and the Airborne Delivery Challenge based on the 2014 event which can also be found on the event’s official website.

Search and Rescue Challenge

Open to: Australian and international university students and aerospace enthusiasts.

The Mission

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.

Where’s Outback Joe?

Your system must be capable of searching an area of at least 2nm x 2nm, up to 5nm from the aerodrome. The target for your search will be a dummy positioned in a typical resting pose in a rural setting.

The GPS coordinates of the search area are provided in Search and rescue Challenge Rules. The air vehicle must not travel outside of the search area or transit lane, for its flight will be terminated if it does so. The search area will be not more that 5nm from the aerodrome.

Over a 60 minute period teams launch their aircraft, conduct their search and locate Outback Joe. Once he has been found a GPS coordinate representing Outback Joe’s location must be provided to the judges.

Rescue Outback Joe!

If GPS location for Outback Joe provided to the judges by the team is within 100 metres of Joe’s location the team will be given approval to deliver the emergency package. The emergency package will contain 500ml of ‘life saving’ water. The package must be dropped as closely as possible to Outback Joe, without landing on him. The UAV will then return to the Kingaroy airport for recovery.

The minimum requirements for the air vehicle are as follows:

The air vehicle must not weigh more than 100 kg (rotary) or 150kg (fixed wing) in the competition configuration

Points will be awarded based on the mission performance including the accuracy of the emergency package delivery, and the team’s answers to questions from the judges prior to the mission.

Additional Deliverables

After meeting the initial registration deadline entrants will be required to submit a short technical report that describes the proposed system design and safety considerations. Later a more detailed technical report which outlines their design approach, methodology for package deployment and operational and safety procedures along with a flight demonstration video must be submitted. Each of these technical reports will contribute to the team’s score. Finally an Autonomous Flight Record that documents a minimum of five hours of autonomous flight must be provided.


Version 1.4 of the rules for the 2014 Search and Rescue Challenge

Waypoint files

Search & Rescue Challenge Layout – 2014SandRWaypoints.KMZ

Please also complete the Compliance Statement.

The prize

Winners in this category will receive AU$50,000*.

The Schedule

The 2014 Search and Rescue Challenge will be held in the week of 22-26 September 2014.

For full schedule details please refer to the Search and Rescue Challenge 2013/14 rules. The key dates are:

Registration closes on 3 July 2013 at 5pm AEST
Deliverable 1: Flight Safety Review At the latest: 7 August 2013 at 5pm AEST
Deliverable 2: Flight Readiness Review At the latest: 23 April 2014 at 5pm AEST
At the Latest: 7 May 2014 at 5pm AEST
Deliverable 3: Autonomous Flight Record At the latest: 6 Aug 2014 at 5pm AEST
Final “Go/No-Go” Announcement of Teams 13-Aug-14
Search and Rescue Challenge 22 – 25 Sept 2014


The Search and Rescue Challenge 2014 will be held in Kingaroy, Queensland.


Airborne Delivery Challenge

Open to: high-school aged students from around the world.

The Primary Mission

An emergency package (shape and size specified in rules) will be made available to competing teams, for use on the day of the competition.

Participants must develop an airborne delivery system that can deliver this package to a lost bushwalker, Outback Joe.

The airborne vehicle will be remotely controlled by a human operator, known as the “UAV controller”.

On the competition day, two hurdles will map out the course and Outback Joe will be position between them. The UAV controller must ensure that the UAV flies above these hurdles.

The delivery of the payload will be controlled either by a human operator, known as the mission manager, or automatically by systems on board the aircraft. In either case the control of the delivery mechanism must be made independently of the actions of the UAV controller. Teams who utilise automatic payload delivery will be awarded a points bonus.

If the delivery of the package is controlled by the mission manger, they and their associated equipment must be located within a designated enclosure that will be 2m x 2m or larger square and barricaded around the edges and covered from the top for safety at all times during the mission. The mission manager will NOT be able to see the target zone during the competition and will NOT be able to communicate with the UAV controller while the aircraft is airborne.

The objective is to deploy the package such that it lands as close as possible to Outback Joe. Points will be awarded based on the proximity of the package to the target, with the points from a maximum of three drops added together. Each team will be allowed 20 minutes to conduct up to 3 drops including all setting up and packing up of any equipment.

The Search Phase

In the optional Search Phase teams must use their unmanned aircraft to search the mission area and read a number of symbols left by Outback Joe. The team that can read all of the symbols in the shortest time will win, although there is a time penalty for reading the symbols incorrectly.

Additional Deliverables

Entrants will be required to submit a technical report which outlines their design, methodology for package deployment and operational and safety procedures. An oral presentation of the technical report information is also required and will be judged along with the other deliverables.


Version 1.1 of the rules for the 2014 Airborne Delivery Challenge are now available.

The Prizes

Prizes will be awarded to the first 3 teams in the Airborne Delivery Challenge Primary Mission:

First Place $5,000
Second Place $2,000
Third Place $1,000
The winning team for the Airborne Delivery Challenge Search Phase will be awarded AU$2,000.

The Schedule

The 2014 Airborne Delivery Challenge will be held in the week of 22-26 September 2014.


The 2014 Airborne Delivery Challenge will be held in Kingaroy, Queensland.

Event official website

Photo archive