For those of you who have not heard of this project, I am a member of the Missouri University of Science and Technology UAV Team ( and we are building a UAV to compete in the 2008 Australian UAV Outback Rescue Challenge. We are currently in the processes of integrating all of our electronics that will go into our UAV (you can find previous blog posts about our progress on our site). I'm not sure if our project would really fit into the average DIY Drone user's price range, but here it is anyways.

UAV Electronics Test Rig

I recently started assembling a test rig to integrate all of the electronics that will be going in the UAV. By performing all of this integration on test bench, the final installation and configuration will be performed much faster. This will also allow us do our HIL (Hardware In the Loop) simulation with all of the components connected.

You may have noticed that there are two large NiHM battery packs, these will soon be replaced by two (11.1V 3200mAh) Lithium Polymer battery packs, saving us about half a pound of weight and significantly increasing our power capacities. Although for bench testing all of the electronics will be powered of off a standard ATX computer power supply. The next step is the get the HIL simulation working with the autopilot and the it’s simulator, this part has been a bit finicky but it should be resolved now.

As a team we have also discussed possible strategies for image acquisition and processing. We had previously planned on simply acquiring VGA resolution video at 30 frames per second, but after reconsidering what altitudes we will be required to fly at to cover the search area in a reasonable time we quickly realized that VGA video would not provide the resolution we need to identify a human target on the ground from an altitude of 400 feet. We have since decided it would be best to use a much higher resolution still camera taking images at set intervals and tagging them with the GPS coordinates and the orientation of the UAV.

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 5, 2008 at 8:51pm

Welcome and great post! I think our friends as Dionysus Designs (last years Outback winner on points) are in for some serious competition this year. The still imagery makes sense, but how are you going to transmit it in real time? That's requires some serious bandwidth.

Or is real time not required in that contest?
Comment by Nullified on January 5, 2008 at 9:23pm
Thanks Chris, it looks like there will be a bit more competition this year, we planned on going last year as well, but we were simply not ready to compete in time. Real time images would be highly ideal, but not required, we have a powerful 802.11g WiFi card on the UAV's onboard computer (you can see it in the image above) and we plan on having a tracking antenna on the ground which will hopefully allow us to get the kind of range that we need.


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 5, 2008 at 9:30pm
Can you make a guess at your total budget for the project (aside from travel!). It would be helpful to know what it takes to get to your level.
Comment by Nullified on January 5, 2008 at 9:55pm
Fortunately we have a pretty decent budget and some very supportive sponsors, I'd say for all of the parts it's been approaching $8,000, which unfortunately is well out of the reach of most DIY'ers (the majority of that money went towards the autopilot).

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 5, 2008 at 10:09pm
For those reading along, they're using the Procerus Kestral autopilot, which is $5k. A bit out of our price range, but the sort of thing many of us imagine doing ourselves.

That link in the original post takes you to their blog, which is well worth reading (dramatic *and* informative)
Comment by paul hubner on January 7, 2008 at 8:25am

Are you certain about the real-time component? I read that you have to be able to locate the target, then get approval from an official to commence the drop phase. That says real time (or close to it) to me.

Good Luck - i think you have a good foundation.

Comment by Nullified on January 7, 2008 at 8:52am
You are correct, but there is no specific requirement for it to be real time as long as you can complete the entire mission of finding Outback Joe and dropping the bottle of water next to him in the time frame of one hour. That's not to say that we are not aiming for real time images from the UAV, and of course we would like to complete the mission as fast as possible.

We are hopping we can get the kind of range and bandwidth that we need to be able to get our images in near real time with our 802.11g link (we plan on having a high gain tacking antenna on the ground).

Comment by Jonathan on January 19, 2008 at 6:59pm
Hey, does anyone have information on the 2008 Outback Challenge? I've read the website about the 2007 challenge. Is the 2008 one definitely on, same rules?
Comment by Nullified on January 21, 2008 at 12:23pm
I haven't heard too much about the 2008 Challenge, but I'm fairly certain that it's on, and I imagine the rules will be similar.
Comment by Anthony Banks on February 25, 2008 at 4:49am
G'day - just stumbled on this particular site. I was at the Outback Challenge in 07 in the capacity of supervising teacher of our high school team(s). In 08, another teacher and I are thinking of giving the big one a crack. I've actually seen Outback Joe close up. I'd be happy to answer any questions of a not too technical nature - what to expect, conditions, croc whereabouts out on the airfield, that kind of thing. Be good to chat. regards - anthony


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