The fastest drone racers in the Australian Army were centrestage in a tight contest between 96 of the nation’s best drone racers vying for the coveted title of Australian Drone Racing National Champion.
Canberra was buzzing with excitement and the sound of drones during the 2019 Mission Foods Australian Drone Nationals, held over two days earlier this month.
Using first-person-view goggles and flying at speeds up to 160 kilometres per hour, there were plenty of crashes and mid-air collisions as pilots raced to get three laps of the track in two minutes.
Combat engineer Corporal Zak Martin-Taylor, Australian Defence Force Academy engineering student Lieutenant Tom Gash and signals officer Captain James Jenkins qualified for the event.
“It was the toughest track I have ever raced on and the skills and abilities of racers at this level is incredibly high. To even qualify is a real achievement for all of us,” Corporal Martin-Taylor said.
“This is the third year we have competed in the nationals and was our best result by far.
“As a team, we have improved so much in our racing and are really well supported by Army in giving us the time and opportunity to be here competing for the Australian national title.”
All Army racers made it through the elimination rounds into the top 48 but were knocked out in the finals.
Captain Jenkins finished in 25th place, Corporal Martin-Taylor in 28th and Lieutenant Gash in 29th.
Corporal Martin-Taylor and Captain James Jenkins are now preparing to compete in the International X-Class drone racing championships to be held in Houston, Texas, in November.
Corporal Martin-Taylor won the Australian X-Class drone title earlier this year.
“It is a pretty exciting sport to be involved in. I build and design my own drones and to race on the international stage is really something else,” he said.
The president of Australian Army Drone Racing Team, Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce, wasn’t surprised by their success.
“The Army Drone Racing Team won the Military International Drone Tournament in 2018 and they continue to improve and expand,” Lieutenant Colonel Joyce said.
“Our Army is the largest user of unmanned aerial systems in the country and our soldiers are embracing the use of drones both tactically and as a sport.”