Saturday, December 4, 2021

New format for international UAV Outback Challenge to boost competition

QUT's Professor Rod Walker.

The international $50,000 prize UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Challenge – Outback Rescue competition held in approved airspace at Kingaroy, Queensland, will become a biennial event from 2011.

Challenge co-founder and ARCAA director, QUT’s Professor Rod Walker said the changes were being made to the Challenge to give search and rescue teams more time to gain autonomous flight experience and more high school teams the chance to enter.

The UAV Challenge comprises the Airborne Delivery Challenge for high school students, which will remain an annual event, and the Search and Rescue Challenge for tertiary institutions and enthusiasts, which will now be held every two years.

Search and Rescue Challenge – open entry

The Search and Rescue Challenge has attracted 175 domestic and international teams who compete to deliver water by UAV to ‘Outback Joe’ for a $50,000 reward, since its launch in 2007.

The new long-lead format is expected to boost competition entries by allowing more time for unmanned aircraft development and testing.

“We do not want the winner to be the only team to drop a water bottle to Outback Joe. We want to have multiple teams closely competing for the grand prize. We would love to measure the closest drop to find the winner,” Professor Walker said.

“To achieve this, we need more participants competing with a very high standard of UAV capability.”

Challenge co-founder and chair of its Technical Committee, ARCAA’s deputy director, Dr Jonathan Roberts from CSIRO said plenty of practice was the key to quality competitors.

“The University of North Dakota came tantalisingly close to completing the entire search and rescue event last year and winning the $50,000.”

“We want to see more teams come to the event with a similar level of preparedness,” Dr Roberts said.

A series of new goals designed to ensure teams gained flight experience would also be introduced.

Challenge Technical Committee member Brendan Williams, from Boeing Research and Technology Australia, said teams would be required to show five hours of autonomous flight before they arrived for competition at Kingaroy.

“Evidence of autonomous flight in the form of flight log book copies, sample GPS-telemetry, videos and web-enabled team interviews will be expected,” Mr Williams said.

Airborne Delivery Challenge – for high school students only

More than 50 Australian high-school teams have participated in the Airborne Delivery Challenge since 2007.

The organiser’s (Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems Australia (AUVS-A)) executive director, Peggy MacTavish, said a new state-based format would be trialled in Queensland this year, before roll-out to the rest of the country in 2012.

“It is an exciting idea to go national and open up the world of UAV competition to students across the country,” Ms MacTavish said.

National championships will commence in conjunction with the first bi-annual Search and Rescue Challenge from 2012 at Kingaroy, Queensland.

Aviation Development Australia Limited (ADAL) – organiser of the Australian International Airshow – will join ARCAA and the Queensland Government in hosting the events.

Further information:

New competition rules will be available in the coming weeks on the UAV Challenge website:

Information will also be posted on Twitter @uavchallenge, and Facebook by the UAV Outback Challenge group.

Interested persons can also follow stranded bushwalker ‘Outback Joe’ for tips on Twitter @Outback_Joe, or Facebook on the Outback Joe page.


Date/ Event / Entrant level / Location/


  • 2011 Sept Airborne Delivery state champs, High schools, SE Queensland (TBA)
  • 2012 Aug Airborne Delivery state champs, High schools, SE Qld, other states (TBA)
  • 2012 Sept Airborne Delivery national champs, High schools, Kingaroy Airport, Qld
  • 2012 Sept SEARCH and RESCUE UAV Challenge, Open, Kingaroy Airport, Qld
  • 2013 Aug Airborne Delivery state champs, High schools, SE QLD, other states (TBA)
  • 2014 Sept Airborne Delivery national champs, High schools, SE Qld, other states (TBA)
  • 2014 Sept SEARCH and RESCUE UAV Challenge, Open, Kingaroy Airport, Qld.

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.

Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.