A picture of a man lying near a mannequin.

Outback Joe ‘almost saved’ by flying robots

Finding ‘Outback Joe’ was serious fun for the international teams competing in the A$50,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Outback Challenge in Kingaroy, regional Queensland. (7:19)

  • 8 October 2010

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Ten teams from the US, Brazil, Holland and Australia built their own UAVs to qualify for the search and rescue event that involves locating a fictional missing character, a mannequin dubbed 'Outback Joe’.

Joe is lost a few kilometres from the airport, and competitors are required to locate then deliver him a water bottle – all of it autonomously: no pilots, no remote control.

A team from the University of North Dakota in the USA came the closest anyone has ever come to completing the challenge. They successfully located Outback Joe, only to accidentally drop their water bottle too early.

They won a A$15 000 encouragement prize.

In this podcast CSIRO's Dr Jonathan Roberts, event co-founder and head judge of the Challenge, explains the competition, UAVs and the technology used to track Outback Joe.

Read more about CSIRO's work developing Robust, dependable flying robots.