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Sun, Oct 26, 2008

Amateurs Win ARCAA UAV Competition Flying 30-Year-Old R/C Kit

"Team Telemaster" Bests Engineering Students' Entries

Aaron Donaldson and Simeon O'Neill entered and won the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation 2008 UAV Outback Rescue Challenge in Queensland, Australia last month with a Hobby-Lobby Senior Telemaster kit purchased over 30 years ago by Aaron's dad.

Converted from gas- to electric-power, Team Telemaster's plane featured a fully articulating belly-mounted camera. Their ground-based control displayed airspeed, altimeter, artificial horizon, the plane's GPS coordinates, and included an autopilot system and a video screen.

The two other entrants, both university-sponsored teams spending four times as much on their projects as Team Telemaster, crashed their planes. "Everyone [else] was aerospace engineers," Donaldson said. "Simeon and I didn't finish more than a semester of engineering."

The 2008 UAV Challenge, a direct outcome of "The Future of UAVs -- Challenges and Applications in the Asia Pacific Region" workshop ARCAA conducted in 2005, was held from September 23 to 25, 2008 at Kingaroy airport in Queensland, Australia. Kingaroy is the site for a new UAV test and training center being used by Boeing Australia and ARCAA.

The goal of the Outback Rescue competition was to rescue "Outback Joe," who is lost in the Australian outback and desperately in need of assistance. "A total time of one hour is allowed for the mission. This includes all time for set up, launch, mission, landing and recovery," ARCAA rules stated.

"Your system must be capable of searching an area of at least 2nm x 2nm, up to 5nm from the aerodrome. The target for your search will be a human (or dummy) wearing light khaki clothes and an Akubra hat. The target will not be moving and will be positioned in a typical resting pose in a rural setting.

"The GPS coordinates representing the four corners of the search area will be provided in the days leading up to the competition. The air vehicle must not travel outside of the search area or transit lane, for its flight will be terminated if it does so. The search area will be not more that 5nm from the aerodrome.

"Over a 60 minute period, teams must deploy their air vehicle systems and conduct the search. Once the search has been conducted a decision must be made as to where Outback Joe is located. A GPS coordinate, representing Outback Joe's location, must be provided to the judges.

"Once Joe has been located with the judges' approval, the air vehicle must be tasked with delivering its emergency package. The emergency package will contain 500ml of 'life saving' water. The package must be dropped as closely as possible to Outback Joe, without landing on him. The UAV will then return to the Kingaroy airport for recovery."

Though they failed to complete the challenge after a loose wiring plug forced them to land, Team Telemaster still walked off with top honors and a $5,000 AU prize.

"The entire team at Hobby-Lobby is thrilled to see our classic Telemaster take on the big guys and win," said Hobby-Lobby President Jay Graves. "The Telemaster has been a consistently great plane for R/C pilots looking for easy flying characteristics combined with a simple assembly process."

Hobby-Lobby International is a 43-year-old, Tennessee-based company manufacturing R/C airplanes, helicopters and boats. The high-wing Telemaster comes in a variety of sizes from micro to a version with a 12-foot wingspan. Assembly options include kits, which are built piece by piece, or "Almost Ready to Fly" (ARF) planes that only require the addition of an engine and electronics.

FMI: www.uavoutbackchallenge.com.au/uavoutbackchallenge, http://ausuav.com, www.hobby-lobby.com

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