School students rise to drone challenge

Sixty high-school students from Australia, China and California will have their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) skills put to the test this week in a first-of-its-kind life-saving medical challenge near Ipswich.

QUT robotics Professor Jonathan Roberts said the CSIRO-QUT jointly run UAV Airborne Delivery Challenge offered opportunities for the young aerial roboticists of the future to think creatively, work in teams and develop the skills they will need to one day lead the industry.

"High-school students will use radio-controlled aircraft with novel delivery mechanisms to deliver an Epipen to manikin Outback Joe who is suffering a severe allergic reaction."

CSIRO Data 61 engineer and Head Marshal at the UAV Challenge events, Mr Dennis Frousheger, said the aircraft must be manoeuvred to pass directly overhead two hurdles that are laid out on the course.

The Epipen drop can be triggered either remotely by a team's student mission manager or autonomously by systems on board the aircraft. The mission manager will NOT be able to see Outback Joe or the aircraft during the flying element of the competition but will along with team members be inside a tent.

Professor Roberts said the CSIRO-QUT jointly run Challenge for high-school students focussed on the ability of UAVs to provide service to the community.

"Too often when people think of UAVs or drones they think of them being used for aerial photography or by amateur hobbyists, or as pizza deliverers," he said.

"But UAVs have enormous potential to play a very significant role in emergency situations, be they medical, natural disasters or conservation, and this will happen in the very foreseeable future."

"UAVs have the potential to save lives," Professor Roberts said.

Professor Roberts said the Challenge could not go ahead without the support of a wide range of sponsors.