The Blog

This year’s event will again consist of two separate competitions. Both contests are grounded in challenges our Aerial and Aquatic Robotic Research Group frequently encounters; responding to unfolding natural disasters. One need not be armed with the most powerful, research-grade drones to make a difference when it comes the initial response to a disaster (see our work on the 2017 Thomas Fire, 2016 Hall Canyon oil spill, and 2015 Refugio oil spill for examples). Small, conventional camera-equipped, entry-level drones can collect very valuable information about a disaster quickly and help first responders swiftly understand what they might be up against as they begin to mobilize their response.

Challenge 1: The Burn Race

Our first competition is very similar to a “traditional” drone race. Competitors will complete two laps around a 1.3 km course, competing for the fastest time across the finish line while estimating the number of “burns” encountered along the course. Along the way racers will encounter an array of burned objects. Upon crossing the finish, pilots will report the number of burned objects. Pilots who correctly report the number of burned targets will suffer no penalty. For each incorrect burned object count, contestants will be penalized with an additional 30 seconds added to their official race time (with a maximum possible penalty of 60 seconds should both counts prove inaccurate).

Challenge 2: Burn Interpretation

The second competition centres on producing an elegant data product of the overall faux burn. While contestants will also be required to “run” the course for this second contest, their focus will be on high-quality imaging of one focal region rather than on getting to the finish line first per se. Contestants will be time-constrained and so must return to the finish line within a prescribed number of minutes (roughly 7 minutes). It is up to you to decide what your “elegant interpretation” of the burn will be. Contestants may pursue any approach they like, but the overarching goal is to communicate some quantitative aspect of the spill in a visually compelling manner. Creativity is encouraged.