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Tournament of the Drones

12/06/2018

A call to arms was heard over the Cairns and local district.  It was to be a brutal battle of wit and skill.  Many had the opportunity to train and prepare for the onslaught.  We went to battle green, receiving our drones only two days prior.  We did however, come with resources of unbridled enthusiasm, flexibility of thought, and dare I say it, cognitive agility.  The tournament was divided into many sub-categories; with one of the most paramount elements of each being problem solving.  Slalom courses take on a new aspect when they are in three dimensions.  Our pilots guided their drones with admirable precision through this timed event, where many others failed by colliding with the challenging structures. 

Marksmanship abound, with pilots requiring a keen eye for direction.  A small pellet flicker was mounted onto the drone’s roof.  Pellets needed to be flicked into the infinitely difficult bucket opening of the often-moving target.  This proved to be very difficult with only the bravest and steadiest of hands prevailing.

Next, the cargo drop proved to be both difficult and fun as the drone’s own pincers were used to carry a lightly weighted load over the receiving bucket. This may seem easy to achieve until the down draft of the drone is taken into consideration.  Wind can and does blow everywhere, and hence, tactics and craft positioning was essential.  All teams were limited to a fixed distance from the bucket and were not allowed to site the target from the side.  Oh my, stuff went everywhere initially, constituting a rather steep learning curve that saw our pilots ultimately understand the secondary dynamics created by the down thrust. Then we were on target. 



The final task required programming of the drones to fly autonomously, that is completely by themselves. To add to this complication, the requirement of an explorative mission to photograph a previously unseen and thoroughly hidden scenario made the task increasingly complex.  Furthermore, the groups needed to use the drones to take images and devise a suitable scale that varied dynamically with the height of the drones.  WOW, the mathematical equations now needed to be identified and implemented without direction from anyone, except the group members themselves. 

Throughout the day, teams worked together in groups of three, each element being a vital link in the chain to guide them in a successful direction.  The team needed to work seamlessly as one, with pilot, navigation, fuel and battery systems monitored constantly by our individual participants.  Izabelle Binnington, Ava Bradley, Paige Courtney, Lily Eggett, Charlotte Thamm and Jasleen Patel; congratulations to you all, I was proud to be there with you.  Your efforts throughout the day were exemplary.  Thank you to the “She flies” co-ordinators for a fun filled and challenging event.  This was my first year at the event with our teams.  This year was our ab initio experience.   This year was our steep learning curve.  This year was our beginning.  Watch out next year, we are on the war path.  Game On!