Adelaide's flying shark spotter

Engineering students work on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

Engineering students work on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
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Monday, 3 September 2007

Shark attacks could be a thing of the past at Adelaide beaches thanks to the efforts of a group of final year engineering students at the University of Adelaide.

Eight students from the School of Mechanical Engineering have designed and built an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with a range of applications including shark patrols, bushwalker rescue, aerial mapping and traffic monitoring.

The seven-month project, involving four Aerospace and four Mechatronic Engineering students, has resulted in a plane that can fly without human interaction and stream live video footage from a 10km radius.

The project is a landmark achievement for the first cohort of students completing their Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering undergraduate degree in 2007.

Team member Jonathan Bannister says the plane is configured primarily for search and rescue and is designed to fly for one hour with a cruising speed of 90kmh.

It will be put through its paces at an international UAV competition being held in Queensland on September 25 and 26, involving 35 teams from six countries.

"Building this plane has been an incredible challenge for us," Jonathan says. "It has incorporated so many different aspects of engineering, from design through to construction, testing and operation. The workload has been huge but we have learnt so much about aircraft design, manufacturing, computers and communication equipment. It's real aerospace knowledge that we can apply in the real world when we graduate."

The September competition, organised by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation, offers a $40,000 incentive. The prize money will be awarded to the entrant whose plane finds a lost bushwalker in the Queensland outback in the shortest time.

Thanks to $50,000 from The Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fund, aerospace company Thales, the School of Mechanical Engineering and other local companies, the students have built what they believe is an outstanding aircraft.

"It can be launched off a beach, recovered by parachute and can also land in the water. Surf lifesavers could have a computer monitor with them and track video footage from the plane at any time," Jonathan said.

"This plane will have a lot of commercial applications," according to Travis Downie, an ex-commercial pilot . "The primary one is shark patrol and surf lifesaving surveillance. At the moment we have fully manned aircraft flying up and down the South Australian coastline, which costs around $1200 a day. These UAVS would be a lot cheaper to run."


Contact Details

Mr Jonathan Bannister
School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: +61 0403 860 824

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762