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ADF focuses on ‘drone racing' to accelerate technology developments

Officers from the Royal Australian Air Force fly their racing UAVs during Air Force Drone Racing Association expo day at Canberra in June. The Australian Defence Force is increasingly engaging in drone racing to enhance their understanding of new UAV technologies, and support associated research and development. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is increasingly engaging in “drone racing” events to enhance their understanding of new technologies related to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and support associated research and development (R&D).

In an interview with Janes in late November, Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF's) Wing Commander Keirin Joyce said a major outcome of increasing involvement in drone racing for the ADF has been “informal modernisation”.

All three services under the ADF have established drone racing teams. Their involvement in drone racing events supports informal modernisation in three ways.

First, drone racing events provide “good market intelligence” to the ADF about available component technologies and how these can influence the design of UAVs, Wg Cdr Joyce said.

“We recognised six years ago that in many regards in the UAV technology sector, the commercial technology providers were moving at a much faster pace than military, especially at the lower cost end,” he added.

Wg Cdr Joyce said the drone racing events provide an opportunity for the ADF to assess cheap components, motors, electronic speed controllers, datalinks, and radios, among other technologies.

Second, drone racing events give the ADF access to a “community of people that have a grounded understanding of flight control code”, Wg Cdr Joyce added.

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