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Defence buzz at drone races

The 2019 Australian International Airshow hosted a world-first with a drone racing arena, attracting competitors from the Australian Defence Force, New Zealand Defence Force and defence industry.

The Royal Australian Air Force Drone Racing Team (AFDRT) also kept up with the pace of the current and former world champion drone racers from Australia, 15-year-old Rudi Browning and 19-year-old Tom Bitmatta.

The Air Force drone racers came from a diverse range of trades and ages. The association president, Flying Officer Jake Dell-O’Sullivan, an Avionics Engineer at RAAF Base Amberley who works on the C-27J Spartan, was proud of the team’s efforts.“We all share a passion for drone racing and working as a team to represent Air Force,” Flying Officer Dell-O’Sullivan said.

“It was such a privilege to be invited to the airshow and demonstrate drone racing to Defence personnel, industry and the public visitors.

“Air Force and Plan Jericho have been supportive of our team, and we are planning for game-changing innovation to drone racing in the future.

“It was also great to see so many school students interested in drone racing and asking us questions on how they can learn more about it.”

Pilot Officer Nicholas Eberl, Flight Sergeant Justin Galbraith, Corporal Steve Duncan and Officer Cadet Angus Gebers also competed.

“All the Air Force racers set impressive lap times in the challenging track and were competitive against the world-class line up,” Flying Officer Dell-O’Sullivan said.

There were some exciting and nail-biting moments in the qualifying heats, with the Australian combined service team managing to retain their hold on the Trans-Tasman Trophy – a frustrating finish for the New Zealand team who were leading by a lap until a mid-air drone collision ultimately gave Australia the win.

Convenor of the drone racing tournament, Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce is passionate about drone racing as an emerging sport with new audiences.

“We are very pleased to be at the forefront of activities that encourage greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for our service personnel,” Lieutenant Colonel Joyce said.

“Our drone racers are encouraged to race while serving in the Defence Force as this is a serious sport. I congratulate all the teams for their enthusiasm and dedication under some trying conditions throughout the tournament.”

Drone racing is a rapidly emerging motorsport and is an approved Air Force sport.

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