International military teams have flown into Sydney for the first ever Military International Drone Racing Tournament (MIDRT), to be hosted at Victoria Barracks in Sydney between 18–21 October 2018.
Teams from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, UK and US will fight it out on the track in a number of races and freestyle events with the hope of being crowned the world’s best military drone racing team.
Major General Gus McLachlan, Commander Army Forces Command, welcomed the international teams to Sydney for the inaugural competition, saying, "The teams have travelled a long way to be here and we are pleased that they have come to Australia to participate in this adaptive and exciting sport."
Drone racing is a rapidly emerging motorsport made exciting and accessible by the low cost of equipment and the first person 'pilot' view (FPV) of the race action. Drone racing skills are often self-taught, but these skills are enhanced and refined by selection in the Army Drone Racing Team.
"This is exciting for us on a number of levels, we are linked to the Invictus Games, and what we are demonstrating to Invictus organisers is that this might be another sport that is inclusive of soldiers who are injured or have a disability," MAJGEN McLachlan said.
"While it is an individual activity for each pilot to maneuver through the course, what I love when you look at the back end is, there is a lot of collaboration, sharing of ideas, technology and bonding, and what Invictus is about is providing that team environment so people feel included."
The MIDRT also provides Army with the opportunity to embrace the innovation cycle, particularly regarding the use of autonomous systems.
"What we are seeing is, it is a sport that if you don't keep up with the developments of technology in terms of propellers, engines and configuration, or best practice in operations and modulated signals from your control device then you can't compete, so the competitors are highlighting the importance of the adaption and innovation cycle. We in Army are working really hard to inculcate that culture throughout the force and acquisition systems," MAJGEN McLachlan said.
Corporal Zakariah Martin-Taylor, an Army Combat Engineer, with the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment and member of the Australian Army Drone Racing Team, described the Army's uptake of UAS systems, and the role the team has played in breaking down early resistance to integrating the technology into the force: "Initially there were a few raised eyebrows, fast forward 12 months, we're here competing at the Military International Drone Racing Tournament, those eyebrows are not raised, those people are now attending to check out the technology and see how versatile it really is."
"I was sent on the UAS courses for my unit, so that is for the Black Hornet and the DJI Phantom. I am now employed as a UAS corporal within the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, that position now means, I help facilitate training, I help the recon teams, train them up on how to professionally and competently use these systems out in the field environment for ISR purposes," CPL Martin-Taylor explained.
The Australian Army has embraced the future in motorsports with the creation of the Army Drone Racing Team. The ADRT competes in organised events around the country and with international military forces with members drawn from various regular and Reserve units.
The MIDRT is an approved and sanctioned Australian Army event, in association with Invictus Games 2018. Drone racing will also feature as a demonstration event at the 2018 Invictus Games, to be held in Sydney between 20–27 October 2018.