This is a fantastic idea, hats off to Professor Sean Anderson and his team.
In a typical Drone Race, contestants’ airframes sprint around a course with the goal of completing the circuit and crossing the finish line as quickly as possible. A Drone Data Race merges that same need for speed with an element of environmental data collection. Drone Data Racers seek to cross that finish line with additional information in tow, showcasing other aspects of drones beyond their quick rotors and agile handling.
This year’s event will consist of two separate competitions. Both contests are grounded in challenges our Aerial and Aquatic Robotic Research Group frequently encounters; responding to oil spills. One need not be armed with the most powerful, research-grade drones to make a difference when it comes to the initial response to an oil spill (see our work on the 2016 Hall Canyon and 2015 Refugio Spills for example). Small, conventional camera-equipped, entry-level drones can collect very valuable information about a spill quickly and help first responders swiftly understand what they might be up against as they begin to mobilise their response to a potential spill. See for example this story from New York last week wherein a commercial drone provided the first hint that a spill was happening.
We will follow this with great interest at sUAS News.