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RAAF drone pilot claims victory in annual ADF drone air race

written by Hannah Dowling | July 6, 2022

Leading Aircraftman Sam Payda from No. 2 Security Forces Squadron with a R70 Skyranger drone at the Air Force Drone Racing Tournament Exhibition day at RAAF Base Amberley.

A Flight Lieutenant was able to take out the title of the fastest drone pilot during the Australian Defence Forces’ annual Air Force Drone Racing Association tournament last month through the power of teamwork.

RAAF Flight Lieutenant Jake Dell-O’Sullivan was one of 16 drone pilots who competed at RAAF Base Amberley to qualify for the Australian Drone Racing Nationals later this year.

As president of the association, he was also responsible for commentating and managing the competition, on top of competing.

“I was focused on the event running smoothly and hadn’t flown competitively for ages due to the pandemic, so I didn’t realise my batteries had degraded. They were cutting out mid-race,” FLTLT Dell-O’Sullivan said of his experience.

“But I was able to borrow a team member’s battery at the end, which gave me a fighting chance of setting a good lap time.”

Ultimately, FLTLT Dell-O’Sullivan took out the fastest time across his three qualifying laps around the 2oo metre L-shaped circuit, which includes obstacles to navigate around.

He noted that since the last competition in 2019, the improvement seen in the competitors’ skills was noticeable.

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“The others were consistently faster and hot on my tail. I think I just got lucky,” FLTLT Dell-O’Sullivan said.

He will now move on to compete against Army and Navy at the Australian Drone Racing Nationals, held during the Australian Defence Force Academy Open Day from August 19–21.

As a Defence-approved sport, Corporal Thompson said Air Force Drone Racing Association offered networking and welfare benefits through being part of a team, as well as skills that can benefit a career.

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“Whether you want to just fly drones, explore 3-D printing or go deeper into the maintenance and technical aspects, you’ll always be learning new things,” Corporal Thompson said.

“You can also branch into the Jericho area or do STEM events with high school and university students and cadets, which the team does.”

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