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Thales and Northrop Grumman initiatives reflect rising importance of UAVs

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 21, 2013

This year's Airborne Delivery Challenge was won by the Calamvale Raptors II team from Queensland
This year’s Northrop Grumman-sponsored Airborne Delivery Challenge was won by the Calamvale Raptors II team from Queensland. (Northrop Grumman)

In a reflection of the growing significance of UAVs in Australia, two major UAV-related initiatives have recently been launched.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) has been commissioned by air traffic management systems supplier Thales to advance Australian research into the implications for air traffic management of UAVs in non-segregated civil airspace.

Announcing the program, Thales said UAVs were moving rapidly beyond the military sphere into the governments and the private sectors and that air traffic management systems need to be prepared to more adequately cater for them.

The work will identify existing UAV airspace integration work being conducted elsewhere in the world and look at operational concepts specific to operating UAVs in the Australian environment, and to build on existing work that is addressing hurdles to routine UAV operation in civil airspace.

The research is being undertaken concurrently with Project ResQu, a $7 million collaborative research project between QUT, CSIRO, Boeing Research & Technology -Australia, Insitu Pacific and co-funded by the Queensland Government.


ARCAA Director, Professor Duncan Campbell said: “We are working on projects to enable UAVs to detect and avoid other aircraft and to automatically land safely in an emergency.

“Overcoming these technical hurdles will allow us to move one step closer to a fully integrated airspace where UAVs will be able to be utilised for many new civilian applications,” Campbell added.

At the same time, Northrop Grumman has announced its sponsorship of the 2013 and 2014 UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue, a competition in which students develop unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) that locate and deliver an emergency package to a fictitious lost hiker.

The competition is aimed at encouraging growth in the Australian civil UAV industry and raising awareness of the potential civilian applications.

“This competition is significant because it introduces high school and university students to UAV technology and shows them how it can help solve real-world problems,” said Ian Irving, Northrop Grumman’s chief executive for Australia.

The UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue includes two flying categories: the Airborne Delivery Challenge and the Search and Rescue Challenge. Both competitions give students a hands-on opportunity to explore their interests, whether in project management, engineering, mathematics or technology.

The Search and Rescue Challenge will be held September 22-26, 2014 in Kingaroy, Queensland and is open to university students and amateurs worldwide.

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