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: 4376

Comment by Gary Mortimer on March 21, 2015 at 10:02pm

I guess radio won't be an issue if the base is on higher ground than Joe. The first OBC took years to win so this next one can't be made easier!

Comment by JB on March 21, 2015 at 10:34pm

Hey Gary

Do you know something I don't? Will the base be on higher ground? ;-)

Even so I don't think the RF fresnal on 915mMhz, plus the terrain and earth curvature well get you enough range at 10km apart, even with a decent mast on base. The retrieval aircraft would only be some 30-50cm above ground once landed. 

The rules say that manual flight termination must be available to the organizers at all times. This means a comms link that, at a minimum, has been tested at that range and conditions. Unlike previously however there seems to be no requirement to terminate flight on loss of comms for any period, which means there is some "flexibility" in the requirements somehow. There are some uncertainties in the rules, and I'm sure these will be clarified in v1.2.

From what I can tell so far, and after doing some considered thinking for each rule presented, I think the biggest hurdle is formulating a strategy on which aircraft(s) to use. Technically, even control and recognition wise there doesn't seem to be to many difficult hurdles. The requirement to operate in confined landing/takeoff zones seem to be the biggest hurdle, yet even there a conventional helicopter would likely be the best contender, provided the comms term. link is upheld as required. Experience might prove otherwise however, but I think this one might just be completed in 2016.

Comment by Daniel Wibbing on March 22, 2015 at 3:35am

The regulations in chapter 1.2.3 say:

"The total length of the flight path through the Transit Corridor will be less than 30km but greater than 20km."

Do I understand it correctly that one way through the Transit Corridor is >20 km? So the total path to fly would be >2*20km?

If e.g. the real length of the Transit Corridor would be 25 km, that would mean the total bidirectional path length to travel would be 50 km, right?

If I further assume that 12 minutes would be needed to find Joe, land, wait for loading the blood sample and waiting again for takeoff, then 48 minutes would be left for traveling 50 km. That would mean an average velocity of 62.5 km/h.

If I assume the worst wind scenario of 25 knots (= 46.3 km/h) the average speed relative to the wind might have to be even higher than 62.5 km/h. Maybe rather 70 or 80 km/h?

If the above considerations are correct, then I think it might be quite hard for a little quadcopter to fly back with the blood sample for 25 km at an average speed of >62.5 km/h.

Where am I wrong?

Comment by JB on March 22, 2015 at 4:32am


The flight corridor is only 10-15km long one way. So up to 30km return trip. Deliverable 3 requires a flight log of 30 minute or minimum of 20km to be presented. So you can expect to do either half the speed or take half the time you calculated.

Head wind will need to be overcome but a tail wind will help. It's unlikely to be that windy, and 25 knots is the cutoff for the event not the expected wind. A smaller quad could manage a single flight back, but there's some issues with having to present a log of it's performance beforehand, which essentially means it needs to be tested and logged the same as the support aircraft. Which is silly IMHO as the secondary aircraft must have essentially the same range, so two aircraft only really help for maintaining a comms link, as they both have to be capable of flying the distance anyway.

I'm thinking of a way to overcome the comms link problem, other than just 4G, but it's likely some more information from the organizers will be required to make sure it's allowed. Like Gary said: Making the base higher might work. ;-)

Comment by Sam on March 22, 2015 at 4:59am
Hi JB,
I agree that 1.2.3 could be interpreted as a 20 to 30 km trip each way (total of 40 to 60 km). It's not really clear in the wording...
Comment by JB on March 22, 2015 at 5:40am

Sam, Daniel

I agree that 1.2.3 is ambiguous. But the Deliverable 3 chapters in 5.3.3 outline the aircraft requirements further, as they need to receive actual flight logs of the aircraft's performance otherwise the team will not be allowed to participate and even come to the event. This was the same in the last OBC 2014. In particular is says logs for more than 20km range and more than 30 minutes endurance are required for each aircraft. Essentially this is the "pre-qualification" round, but you do it home before you come.

Also the transit corridor photo in the rules shows something of similar range. According to the angle of the paths shown I'd say about 12-13km one way if the distance between base and landing site is 10km...if the drawing is accurate. There's no reason for them not to tell us the requirements and surprise us with more range. But hey who knows? Last time they sprung us with the fact that all the gliders would be operating out of the airport while we flew, and that the best 4-5hours for imaging, out of the middle of the day could possibly be cancelled. It worked out in the end though in that we flew at the same time as the gliders at the airport. We had to wait some 20minutes whilst a bunch of them launched, but it went really well for that it was the first time anyone had done UAV and GA from an open airport at the same time in Australia. Made us fell like we belonged somehow! ;-)

BTW Daniel I like your ObliX. Are you panning on making on making a smaller Asterix? ;-) I think something like that might be the go for this competition as the support aircraft. Wind will be a factor for an airship though, it's always got some wind in Australia! 

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 22, 2015 at 6:43am

We should really open a discussion thread somewhere. 

Another concept that might work, and be very simple, would be a quadcopter with a pusher prop.  I've seen these played with before and it works.  Probably capable of 100 km/h.  (just don't know for how long)

Also, so far, our concept has been that we would need a "flying repeater" to orbit the landing zone.  But what about a completely independent flying repeater, that would hover over the home base, or possibly move to the mid point?  This could be an efficient quadcopter type system.  But would it work from a radio-science perspective, if the repeater was not directly overhead the landing zone?

Or, could you have the large VTOL lander, drop a Skyfun at altitude that would orbit and be the flying repeater, which then would return to base and do a rough landing?  Almost a disposable aircraft.  Not quite, but they were landing them in a really small area at AVC.

I would like to see somebody make a really good STOL airplane.  Huge flaps, leading edge slats, serious landing gear with shock absorbers.  If you look at the full-scale world, airplanes like this are used in the bush, rather than helicopters.  They aren't as efficient as a glider, but they still have more range and lower operating cost than helicopters.  

Evolution improves the breed, so let's look at every possibility.  I don't see why you couldn't land an airplane in about 20m and like a 2:1 glideslope?

Comment by Daniel Wibbing on March 22, 2015 at 6:53am


thanks a lot! I read the text again and think you are right. They are talking about the "total length of the flight path", which should mean the bidirectional path.

By saying "making the base higher" do you mean putting the antennas on a very high mast? That's a good idea and the question would be how high a mast they would allow and how high a mast you can put up within the 15 minutes of setup time. ;)

Happy you like ObliX! Unfortunately we are still in the design phase and will probably not be ready in time for the Medical Express Competition deadlines. But we would definitely like to take part in one of the next Medical Express Competitions coming. However, I am wondering how "landing" is defined and if anchoring an airship to the ground and switching off the motors would count as "landing" or not.

AsterX could be the name of the quadcopter ObliX could be carrying to the remote landing site. ;)

Comment by JB on March 22, 2015 at 8:09am


What type of thread do you have in mind? 

A pusher quad sounds interesting, do you have a link? You'd need 7min one way at 100kmh, so say 20-22min if you have that ability to recog Joe fast and land inside 5min or so.

I was alluding to using the support aircraft as the repeater at the base or nearby, instead of flying it out as well. That way you could potentially change it's batteries if need be whilst the retriever is landed at Joes. The radio should work provided there is not to much vegetation and you sit the comms platform at just under 1500AGL. You might have to move a bit closer don the corridor otherwise, but at least it's not all the way and back.

The skyfun (or bigger) with reverse thrust would work. But only as support aircraft as the retriever needs to be able to self launch from Joes. Both must land intact. Same could work for a STOL. Payload requirements are the question for recognition and landing.


No probs Daniel

Last time we used a 9m mast with guy wires and had +90% RSSI all the way, but the aircraft was at 200m AGL. I was hinting towards a flying mast but at the base instead of at the landing zone. You wouldn't be able to have a mast high enough to get 10km to the ground, especially only some 30cm off the ground at the landing zone.

Shame you can't make it, but maybe we can catch up when I come back to the Heimatland again. With the landing I'm not sure how you would solve it with an airship. In your case you'd want to keep the propellers on with downwards thrust to keep it on the ground, otherwise you'd need to screw something into the ground just to keep it there when the porps must be switched off. Is the design hybrid lift body? BTW I might have a communications package for which your design would be ideal, for third world or SAR operations. What size do you think you can pack the ObliX down too and what do you expect you hover and cruise amp draw to be? ;-)


Comment by Daniel Wibbing on March 22, 2015 at 8:47am


hey, that would be great to meet when you come back to your Heimatland again! Please let me know! :)

A flying mast is definitely a great idea! If they would allow for a tethered flying mast, an aerostat (helium filled balloon on a string) would be pretty simple, I think.

I will try to participate in the competition, but at the moment I am still rather pessimistic.

Concerning landing, I thought I could throw an anchor to the ground, which might be some kind of gripper holding on some rocks or stones or other objects. Then I could completely switch off the motors and the airship would just hover in a height of e.g. 1.5 m above the ground. Like this Joe could place his blood sample into the airship, I could leave the anchor behind by cutting the rope and return.

What do you mean by "hybrid lift body"? ObliX is lighter-than-air.

I will try to design ObliX in such a way to pack him down to the size of a travel case you could normally check-in at airports with. The helium bottle will be the biggest and heaviest thing of all and it will always be best to buy it close to the place of operation.

I don't yet know what the amp draw will be, but I guess it might be around 10 A or less per motor.

What kind of "communications package" do you mean? Sounds interesting! :)


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