Students achieve world-record breaking drone flight


Record-breaking aerospace students Robert Robinson, Tristan Heywood, Jeremy Cox (centre) Oscar Fawkes and Zitong Liu.

Students pilot historic drone flight

A team of aerospace students from the University of Sydney have helped break a world record by landing a drone in Texas using a remote control joystick located in Sydney.

The feat, which has never been attempted before, was achieved in tandem with student collaborators from Texas A&M University in the United States, who simultaneously operated a drone in the University of Sydney’s laboratory.

Despite being located on the opposite side of the world, the students from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies used the internet to control a quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) located in Texas.

Not only was this the first international attempt to use the internet as a drone control portal, it was also the longest distance ever successfully reached for a non-military remote controlled drone flight, with the two teams separated by 13,000 kilometres.

The record was attempted as part of the Aerial International Robotic Racing of Unmanned Systems (AIRUS) competition on Sunday 6 December.

Both teams set out to see how difficult it would be to control an aircraft on the other side of the world, using software including Mission Planner and Google Hangout to communicate with their international teammates.

University of Sydney team spokesperson Jeremy Cox said the nail-biting experience wasn’t all plain sailing, with the teams encountering unpredictable flight conditions due to the great distances involved.

“It all went fairly smoothly but there were some challenges with the signal delay, which makes it difficult to control,” said Jeremy, a combined Aeronautical (Space) Engineering and Science student.

We used the well-established science of UAV flight, but we sent our signal over internet, which hasn’t been done before.