UAV Challenge wins the AAUS Industry Champion Leadership Award

The late Prof Rod Walker

We are very excited to be selected as the winners of the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems (AAUS) Industry Champion Leadership Award for 2020. According to the AAUS, “the Leadership Award recognises individuals or organisations that lead the way with advocacy work that strives to improve the commercial and / or technological viability of the unmanned system industry.” We want to congratulate all the finalists and we feel very proud to win in such company.

The UAV Challenge has run since 2007 and over the years the event has grown and evolved as the quality and experience of teams improved, the technology developed (some by the teams themselves) and the UAV industry as we know it today was born.

The UAV Challenge was an idea of the late Rod Walker of QUT, Jonathan Roberts (then at CSIRO) and George Curran (also then at CSIRO). There were many motivations for creating the Challenge but the primary one was to assist in bringing UAVs into common place use in non-military domains (in 2007 the military had already begun commonly using UAVs).

We created two types of events. The first was a high-school event that aimed at giving school students learning experiences that would encourage them to think about a future career in the UAV industry. The second was an event open to anyone in the world where a grand challenge (seemingly impossible) would force teams to innovate and solve major technical and logistical issues that we knew were holding the UAV industry back. A common element in all the events has been Outback Joe, an accident-prone farmer from a remote part of Australia, but who loves UAVs and how they can be used to save him year on year.

The UAV Challenge has so far had over 700 teams with over 4,000 team members compete in 21 events (13 high-school and 8 open events). Those teams have come from over 40 countries and the UAV Challenge can say that we have had a positive impact on the use of UAVs in the civilian world.

The UAV Challenge would never have worked if it was not for the hard work of hundreds of people. The current co-organisers of the UAV Challenge are CSIRO Data 61 and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). We would like to thank the members of the Technical Committee (past and present), the many Judges (mainly from industry), our fellow founding organisations the Queensland Government and Boeing, our numerous sponsors, previous Steering Committee members, the event staff (many of whom were volunteers), the providers of the competition sites (including Kingaroy Airport, Dalby Model Aero Club, Calvert Radio Aero Modellers Society and Doug Browne), local governments (including Western Downs Regional Council, South Burnett Regional Council and Ipswich City Council), Boeing and Insitu Pacific Limited for their STEM activities, CASA (for their forward thinking and trust), the QUT and CSIRO staff that have worked at the events, Dennis Frousheger, Andy Keir, Brendan Williams, Ross Dungavell and Mick Molloy (all of whom have put in huge amount of work in their own time), Anthony Banks (from Muller College and who has attended every single event and fielded high-school teams at all of them), all the photographers that have taken the tens of thousands of official photos, our media supports (including the BBC, Channel Ten, ABC TV, ABC Radio, Channel 7, QANTAS inflight magazine) and of course all the teams that have entered over the past 14 years.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the families of the organisers who support us all while we disappear to do UAV Challenge things, or who have even come along themselves and volunteered.

We miss you Rod.