Triumph and tragedy at the Outback Challenge

University of North Dakota Team

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Engineering from North Dakota made Outback Challenge history yesterday. They were the first team ever to fly into the search area, find Joe, and deliver his water . The achievement was hard won they had difficulties on day one, from their blog.

Dave passed the manual flight portion of the flights and we landed the aircraft and prepared for the autopilot flight scrutineering.  We had a short delay for a crop duster to take off as the airport was being used for both Manned and Unmanned flights.  We powered our system back up and much to our demise the autopilot would  not connect to the ground station.  We began troubleshooting this problem and were lucky enough to have the ability to contact Cloud Cap Technology.  We worked as long as we could at the field to resolve the issue.  We thank Matt from Cloud Cap for putting in the late night he did to help us as it was somewhere around 10:00 pm his time when we were talking with him.  The event organizers decided to allow us one more chance tomorrow to complete the scrutineering.  We came back to the hotel and worked for a few hours deciphering what was happening with our system as it was an error we had never seen before.  We ran out of things we could try without talking to Cloud Cap so we decided to break and try to get some rest until 1 am local time when Cloud Cap would be open for business.  Matt then contacted us with a solution to try and we did it and our system came back to life.  We then tested again and the same error came about after a power cycle of the Autopilot.  We currently have a solution to the problem that should allow us to fly for the scrutineering and competition.  We are departing again for the airport in 20 minutes.  We are confident that we have a system although not perfect that will work for what we need.

At the end of day one, only Team Robota had made it through the scrutineering. Organisers decided to give three teams that were having technical difficulties  another chance to fly.

Teams assembled for briefing at 0600 to a slightly misty Kingaroy and that held proceedings.

The flight order for the three teams that had been given another chance was drawn from a hat and the North Dakota team went first. After a successful evaluation flight they had a short delay to wait for a manned aircraft to depart and they then went straight into it.

Congratulations to the team, the bottle may have been outside of the 100m scoring area but a fine achievement none the less.

The mixing of manned flight and autonomous aircraft will have been novel for the American teams as its something thats just not happening for them back at home.

Next up to fly and the only team to make it through day ones scrutineers, Team Robota from Texas. Antonio Lyska had designed and built the autopilot himself and was this years Sparkfun Challenge winner. Making several fans on the way.

His aircraft made it to the search area and we believe saw Joe, but sadly went down. Why is yet to be determined.

Next out, Muroc Wild Hogs, unfortunately they did’nt make it through the second scrutineering.

Last up to the plate, Latitude 38S, a sad ending to a lovely platform.

Joes last hope of rescue might lie with Team Skylight from Brazil who are yet to fly. We believe that had difficulties with missing kit. They have been resolved and they will be given the chance to fly.

The Outback Challenge, Search and Rescue task has shown once again just how difficult sUAS flight can be.

Organizers will now be preparing for the schools challenge which unfortunately cannot be streamed live.

Big thanks to Max and Kim for sitting out in the sun and live streaming the event for those of us unable to make it. Special prize from the committee is in order methinks!

Update 29th Sept 2010

Once the sky cleared yesterday morning Team Skylight from Brazil had a crack but it did’nt happen.