After our win at the 2014 UAV Outback Challenge and the many subsequent team discussions, CanberraUAV has developed a detailed set of goals for the next couple of years (see below).

The general theme is that we want to build up a capability to run real-life Search and Rescue scenarios in concert with the emergency services. We also want to collaborate with other like-minded organisations to do the same.

And as always, we remain committed to publishing our documentation and source code and remaining an “open” organisation dedicated to advancing the field of civilian UAV technology.

We always welcome new members. So if you see something on the list of goals that you’re interested in contributing to, let us know.

Finally, it’s been an amazing 4 years since the beginning of CanberraUAV and we can’t wait for what the next 4 years will being!

The following goals we aim to complete in the 2015-2016 timeframe.


Lead: Tridge

  • Researching new cameras that are able to detect a shoe sized object at 100m altitude
  • Imaging software improvement to detect the aforementioned shoe
  • Record a reference set of images of an area with items strewn in it, to be used for development of imaging software
  • Support use of common cameras (ie Gopro), and document shortfalls
  • Provide comparison images between cameras (multi-camera flights)
  • Start using thermal cameras (if not too expensive) in the future

Airframe development

Lead: Jack, James, Greg, Darrell

  • Development of a rugged airframe (Bushmaster mk II) that can carry an imaging payload for a 1 hour flight and does not require a prepared runway for takeoff and landing
  • Investigate use of petrol helicopters and high efficiency multicopters as option
  • Development of a simple small foam airframe (Techpod, etc) fitted out with CanberraUAV electronics. Test and develop range, duration stats

Ground Equipment

Lead: Chris, Matt

  • Develop a compact catapult/launch system capable of rapid deployment in remote locations as a possible solution to absence of runway. Suitable for 4-10kg airframes
  • Develop capture mechanism/procedure for recovering airframe in remote locations to minimise damage to airframe e.g. chutes, net etc
  • Improve transportability and readiness of our equipment to allow for short notice deployments when interesting opportunities arise. Know the capabilities and limits of our airframes and suitability for the particular scenario
  • Fitting out the Ground Control Van in a better way, based on our OBC 2014 experiences
  • Develop a ruggedised mini Ground Control Station (pelican case) to enable small footprint operations

Running a mini-OBC

  • Research the feasibility of running a small scale competition/challenge with the objective of finding multiple large and small objects in a given area
  • Running a “Drone Day Out” in conjunction with mini-OBC, to showcase technologies and provide information to the interested public

Radio data link R&D

Lead: Tridge, Stephen

  • Look at using 915-928 MHz ISM radios for high-datarate datalinks, as they give better range
  • Antenna Tracker improvements (depends on radio used)
  • Develop a 3G/4G solution for situations where it is appropriate
  • Look at the feasibility of a satellite data link
  • Enhanced link aggregation and failover
  • Investigate 2.4 GHz Ubqiuti radios if the 900 MHz radios don’t work out
  • Main goal is a long range / “high” bandwidth radio that can fit on small aircraft (ie. Skywalker)

Safety Management System

Lead: Chris, Jono, James

  • Develop and implement a mature safety system for CanberraUAV’s operations
  • Create checklists, procedures for each position. Includes abort modes and airframe/engine hours/battery cycle tracking
  • Create an occurrence form to track and identify hazards, incidents and accident
  • Try to continuously improve CanberraUAV’s safety by performing ad-hoc safety management activities.
  • Develop a safety management system for CanberraUAV
  • After 12 months, the goal would be to transition to the SMS, which would be ongoing and more mature way to continuously improve safety (compared to ad-hoc safety management)

Documentation and Admin

Lead: Stephen

  • Update documentation for the cuav and MAVProxy software packages
  • Investigate more effective ways to manage and publish documentation
  • General updates of the CanberraUAV website and “admin” github repository
  • Collating documentation into a “how to” guide for S&R organisations to quickly replicate our setup. Include data on different systems (ie. compare cameras)
  • Gain UAV Operators Certificate to enable non-hobbyist operations
  • Document a “how to” guide to enable prospective users to build our system step by step (suggest video/series of videos on youtube). This would include ground station setup, telemetry links, MAVProxy.


  • More work with universities, high schools and SAR organisations
  • Work with landcare or similar groups for environment monitoring type tasks
  • Build relationships with emergency services/SAR organisations (ie SES)

Views: 1844

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 2, 2014 at 4:10am

Hats off to you all Stephen!

Comment by Adam Kroll on November 2, 2014 at 5:15am

I was speaking with a Landcare group the other week and they are trying to detect feral animals like cats and boars who kill a lot of native animals.  They're using a thermal camera on a manned platform and unfortunately, the cost of the flights are using up the majority of their budget and they won't achieve their objectives because of this cost.  Perhaps their funds would be better spent supplying Canberra UAV with good quality equipment and a high spec thermal camera, as many of the goals you've listed for search and rescue could with minor tweaking be used for identifying feral animals.  Send me a message if you'd like me to give you the Landcare groups contact details.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 2, 2014 at 9:03am

Lots of hunters/poachers want to do that sort of thing as well its an issue with opensource solutions I guess. 

Comment by Bim on November 2, 2014 at 10:48am

Are you doing (or planning to) vision aided navigation?

Comment by Gary McCray on November 2, 2014 at 11:36am

Sounds like an excellent and worthwhile set of very public spirited goals.

I'll be interested to see if the $200.00 Seek thermal camera turns out to be useful in this.

Best Regards,


Comment by Stephen Dade on November 3, 2014 at 1:43am

Adam: We're happy to test out equipment. We are trying to avoid using super-expensive (>$2000) equipment though, in order to make it easy for other groups to replicate our setup

Bim: Not directly, but we would like to increase the accuracy of our navigation.If you've got some ideas we'd be interested in hearing them!

Comment by Justin Stiltner on November 3, 2014 at 5:46pm


If you can make a list of things you would like photographed from the air I will try to help out.  I have access to some grassy fields, harvested farm fields and similar, if you know the altitudes and objects you would like photographed I will have our aircraft photograph some things I place next time we fly.  A list of things you would like would help!

Comment by Justin Stiltner on November 3, 2014 at 5:54pm

I suppose the previous comment should have been directed at Tridge, but he was not yet in the conversation.

Comment by Stephen Dade on November 4, 2014 at 3:59am

Justin: We are aiming to find people and their possessions (shoes, clothes) from an altitude of ~120m. What we are looking for is variety of terrain, as we currently fly at our local RC club - it just has grassy fields. So most of our photos are of grassy fields!

What sort of camera would you be using?

Comment by Justin Stiltner on November 4, 2014 at 11:13am
The camera would be a canon A810 mounted on a vibration isolated mount in a Nader view configuration. We have that already and if I get something on my personal aircraft I would be happy to contribute with it as well.


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