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UNSW school race day looks for the next generation of drone pilots

written by Jake Nelson | November 22, 2023

School students were given the opportunity to race drones at an event hosted by the UNSW School of Aviation. (Image: Surf Life Saving NSW)

The University of NSW School of Aviation has hosted school students for a Drone Racing Day in partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW.

The event on Tuesday was part of the launch of UNSW’s new bachelor of aviation majoring in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), which combines theory with a practical component facilitated by SLS NSW’s Australian Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle Service (AUAVS).

“[The degree] will equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to support demand in the ever-evolving field of aviation, laying the platform to produce a new line of commercial pilots, drone operators, and aviation researchers,” said SLS NSW in a media release.

Students from schools around Sydney were given DJI Avata drones, which were raced in heats around pre-designed tracks throughout the day using VR headsets.

“For many of them, they’ve never had any experience with drones before, and they’re absolutely loving it,” said teacher Victoria King from Ravenswood School for Girls.


“They said it was very slightly disorientating, and they weren’t sure where they were, but they’re definitely keen for their second round.

“Once we relate back to them more details about the event and what actually happened, I think there would be a very strong interest in the future from even more students.”

UNSW’s Dr Vanessa Huron said the new degree will train students to be not only drone pilots but thought leaders in the RPAS space.

“What is unique to this program is we’re giving a holistic teaching experience, and students are not just learning how to fly in partnership with Surf Life Saving New South Wales. They’re learning from the experts in the industry, but they’re also having the underpinning of academia,” she said.

“So, they’re really understanding entrepreneurship, business skills, project management, understanding how to share manned, crewed airspace.

“It’s filling this gap where we are really creating a holistic experience to create a successful graduate who can go out into the world and make it a better place.”

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