UAV Challenge Medical Express rules have been released.

The UAV Challenge Medical Express rules have been released.

The Mission for 2016:

"Outback Joe is at his property in remote Queensland, Australia and has been feeling unwell. He has had a remote consultation with his doctor using video conferencing, and his doctor has requested some blood tests be done as soon as possible. Joe is well prepared, has a home sample taking kit, and has taken his blood sample. The challenge is now to get the blood sample to the lab. Joe’s property is very remote and to make matters worse, it has been cut off by floodwaters.

Teams are invited to attempt to retrieve a blood sample from the remote Outback Joe and return it to base where medical staff will be waiting to analyse it. Teams must deploy unmanned aircraft to Joe’s location, and then return a sample bottle from him utilising a remote landing and takeoff site close to him. They must complete all of this within one hour."

Documentation can be found here:

Rules PDF here:


Challenge FAQ:

Brief overview of the 2016 OBC rules:

  1. Two aircraft are allowed that can detach/reattach to eachother > one as retrieval aircraft and one for support > both can be airborne at the same time
  2. Range required +40km but no more than 60km through "bent" geofenced transit corridor - waypoints will likely backtrack to get the total distance, but will be at least 250m apart. (see FAQ)
  3. Flight must not take longer than one hour so the airframe must be able to achieve roughly 90-100kmh average, as well as be VTOL or STOL (!)
  4. The RF Link range required is approximately 10km (3-4G Mobile and Satellite comms allowed - safety case req. for landing zone etc)
  5. 1500ft AGL altitude restriction
  6. 25knot average wind over 10 minutes will cancel the event (which is higher than last time)
  7. Joe GPS coordinates that are provided are within 100m of Joe. One must locate him and land no closer than 30m, but no further away from Joe than 80m - distance away is scored at 2 points per meter - Joe has lost his colorful shirt but kept his jean pants on - phew!
  8. payload to be picked up is 20x100mm and no more than 100g and must be returned intact back to base.
  9. aircraft must remain motionless for 1 minute after landing near Joe before Joe will approach to place payload - Takeoff Arm switch is required by Joe at pickup location with one minute takeoff delay after activation
  10. Biggest points are for delivering intact sample back to base
  11. Only the top 20 ranking teams through D1-D3 will get to go (based on paperwork, flight logs and videos) - That will be tough
  12. Might not be at Kingaroy this time...

No specifics are given to the makeup of the Joe takeoff landing site or base site, apart from that it will "impede low glideslope landings". So this could allow something like a Skywalker X8 with a quadcopter strapped underneath to launch and fly to location, identify and locate Joe exactly, then detach the quad for payload retrieval, while the X8 stays above the landing zone as RF relay until quad is released to takeoff, then both can head back with the X8 arriving first and possibly landing with a parachute and then the quad with payload some minutes later. A single VTOL might be nice but you'd have to land/takeoff blind without RF link. Helicopters welcome.

Shouldn't be too hard.... I think I have the gear for that here already. Time to dig out old Tinker Bell and send her back to get Joe! ;-)

Views: 4437

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 21, 2015 at 5:12am

Saweet!  Sounds perfect for a helicopter.

Does it specify if a gas motor has to actually stop, and the restart?  Or can it idle if there are no moving exposed parts?  And "motionless", does it matter if the rotor is just "windmilling" at like 30 rpm?  Or is rotor brake required?

If somebody drops a quad from a plane and then re-couples it in the air, they deserve the win!

I was actually looking at how airborne refueling probes work yesterday thinking.... hmmmm... could that be done?

Comment by Sam on March 21, 2015 at 5:43am
Check out 1.3.2 on page 8. 'Remove power from any propellers making it safe for Joe to approach' is open to interpretation, but I feel that the motor could keep running as long as the rotor stopped. They would probably take the minute from when the rotor stopped moving, so a brake would be a time and safety advantage...
Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 21, 2015 at 6:29am

And if not, remote starting is not a big problem.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 21, 2015 at 7:33am

Looking at the rules, the flight termination system is interesting. It appears that it's basically mandatory to have the throttle servo at least pass-through an external processor?  And then some radio system, independent of the main, able to command flight termination?

Does it seem correct that, there's this requirement to be able to kill the motor remotely, but then the autopilot would still be able to do a controlled auto-rotation?  There's no requirement for a forced crash on a helicopter, nor anything saying you *cannot* auto-rotate to a safe-ish landing?  Would be nice to save the helicopter!

I'd been working on this external motor management program running on a Teensy, and it seems like this actually plays directly into that.

Comment by JB on March 21, 2015 at 8:08am


Tridge has already implemented most of the failsafe/termination in the Ardupilot code. I don't think it needs to be changed much, in fact I think it might be a bit simpler than last time. The Pixhawk is already approved for use as it has a separate FMU/IO circuit. You just need to make sure it has a independent power source, so it's own battery and BEC to the PXH servo rail. You'd of course have to make sure you have it on Arducopter...

Autorotation should be fine. From memory last time one of the quadcopter teams asked to let it hover down rather than just kill the motor.

You'll need to have a rotor stop so Joe can place the payload. What size are you thinking? 550? Also will you be going "comms down" when landing? I'd expect no comms under 60ft at 10km, even with a RFD900.

BTW on the two aircraft setup I'd just send the quad back by itself after it has picked up the reattaching to support aircraft in flight required. The quad needs to cover ~10km that way.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 21, 2015 at 11:33am

Oh, that's interesting about the FMU/IO.  But, what about the independent power?  Plugging power into the servo rail does provide backup power to the entire Pixhawk system, but the rules seemed to say that the flight termination system needed it's own power supply?  That part isn't super clear to me.

I don't know about sizing, etc, yet. To be clear, I'm not sure I'd be fielding a team, I definitely couldn't do this alone.  I'm just theorizing at this point.

The comms issue is a definite reason maybe to look at a deployable vehicle, even though it's not technically required by a helicopter for the landing.  It would also make the pick-up just that much more secure.  The helicopter could orbit, then go into a hover and try to get the quad to couple with it.  A small electric quad could maybe cover 10 miles return but... it is actually asking a lot.  And starts to beg the question why even bother.  You could almost have two sets of batteries, drain 1, switch over at the rescue site, leave it behind, and come back on the second battery.  

The mid-air recoupling is a challenge, but maybe not too bad, it's almost the opposite if the precision landing.  You're precision landing, upside down. :)  You would just need a tiny little copter, 250 size or something.  The only thing I'd really be worried about, is on the coupling, if something went wrong and it flew up in to the rotor of the mother ship, that would be horrible.

Comment by Jacko on March 21, 2015 at 1:50pm
Looks like nothing explicitly rules out a trad heli from a safety point of view. Though I still feel Robs idea for balsa blade is going to be relevant for the risk assessment. Maybe foam core with a thin composite skin. Manned heli have very delicate light blades relatively speaking. Imagine a R22 doing tic-tocs! Lots of fun times ahead with this challenge!
Comment by Jacko on March 21, 2015 at 2:34pm
I am also wondering about the "ground to ground comms over a distance of >10km" How easy is that going to be?
Comment by Chris on March 21, 2015 at 4:04pm

If you are using 915Mhz range then two aircraft will be needed, one to loiter above keeping a comms link to the aircraft that lands and back to the ground station as I'm sure they loose comms once it approaches the ground.

Wondering if a 433Mhz radio will work better in this instance?  It is limited in output power (25 mW vs 915Mhz's 100 mW) unless you have an amateur cert or deal with ACMA to get a higher output license.  Might be easier than using two aircraft.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 21, 2015 at 4:49pm

Is it mandatory to have comms on the ground?  I was wondering about that, because I think we need access to the flight terminator, all the way to the ground?

If so, seems two aircraft will be almost mandatory.

I wonder if it would be allowed to drop a recovery pod on a winch line?  It says you can't get closer than... 30m from Joe, so does that mean you can hover 30m overhead?


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