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NTDUG's Search and Resuce Challenge I

From: Chad F.
Sent on: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 7:44 PM

For the month of February, and with little warning, NTDUG would like to invite all drone operators to our first contest ever! Below you will find the details.  This is to be considered a trial run for everybody, so help us out if you can.  We also know that for most this is a drive so to sweeten the pot and help make things worth the effort NTDUG would like to inform you that we will have a first, second and third place prize!


First Place: APM 2.6 with Deans connector style power module and GPS/Compass module

Second Place: $75 gift card

Third Place: $25 gift card


There will also be NO ENTRY FEE, just a waiver to sign.

If we don't get at least THREE "teams" to compete, this will become a regular Fly In instead.  Don't be a wuss, come try!


The intent of this contest is two fold.  The first goal is to encourage our members to build better drones. This means learning how to add equipment that you might not be familiar with or to make you more familiar with the mission planner, or maybe just to inspire you to be a better and safer pilot.  Whatever you think your shortcomings are with drones, consider this to be your excuse to get better at them!


The second intent is to mimic (as close as we can) a real world use for civilian drones.  Why spend your valuable time and money on a hobby just to to let it sit around and collect dust?  Why not get hot on them and wind up saving someone's life with the stuff you did in your spare time?  Drones are a very valuable resource to those that conduct Search and Rescue missions and if you had no idea of that, now you know!  If you can build a drone capable of finding objects in a field then you have a shot at finding a lost anything, people included.  Give it a try!


Below is the list of rules for the contest and will most likely have minor changes as needed.  We are not out to screw anyone, we just have no experience in hosting a contest like this (few do).  Not less than one week prior to this event we will issue to all NTDUG members a SIMULATED missing person's report for purposes of this contest.  Do NOT circulate it, I don't want cops showing up at my house asking about lost Joe!  Instead, use it to help plan your mission.  Let's start with some approximate details:



This contest will take place down in Waxahachie close to where the Renaissance Fair is.  Future contest sites could be anywhere, just as SAR events might be anywhere.  We will make this first one as easy as possible so it will take place within a farmer's field.  Please keep in mind that this is an actual crop field so please do not drive in it.


---Where to set up---

In the interest of fairness, everyone will start in nearly the same place.  Each team will be allowed to set up in a way that affords them the most privacy possible but keep in mind that we can not guarantee complete privacy.  We will do our best with what we have.



Most of our Fly In sites don’t have any amenities.  This location will be no exception.  In true to life as we can fashion the closest bathroom is about 4.3 miles away.  As usual, bring your lunch, bring water, bring shade, a heater, gloves, coat, sunglasses, hat, YOU NAME IT bring it!  NTDUG will supply one 3000KW generator with a 120VAC outlet capable of putting out 20 amps.  Use it at your own risk as small generators have been known to fry computers!!

---Challenge Details---

1)  Each team may be comprised of no more than 3 persons.  We recommend at least two for safety but solo operators are welcome.  Once you start the ONLY help you may receive will  be from your team (unclear directions or “gray area” situations can be an exception, ask a Contest Director).


2) All specifics as to the Missing Objects we will be searching for will be relayed to each team in the form of informational flyers. They will include a mock photo, age, height, hair color, ethnicity, clothing and items last seen with, and where/when they were last seen.


3)  Each team will have at least a 1 hour setup period where they will not fly but can do anything else.  Please do NOT unpack your car before this starts, keep it all in your car.  Immediately following the 1 hour setup period the team will have ONE HOUR to conduct their search.  Use your time wisely!


4)  Prior to start, each team will submit in written form a flight plan report to the Contest Directors.  On this one sheet of paper include:

Names of team members, your drone type, all major components onboard your drone, which frequencies you use and what channels they are on and describe your general plan on how you intend to search.  This doesn't need to be very detailed but we need to know what is in the air.


5)  You MUST be capable of switching video channels no matter what frequency you choose to use for it.  Other than an operational power of not more than 1000mW on anything that transmits.  There will be no restrictions on equipment.


6)  Ceiling will be 350ft, floor will be 20ft.  Busting these limits for periods of time lasting over 1 minute will result in point reduction or disqualification.


7)  You may use any airborne style drone that you wish but you may only have ONE drone, no backups or “two in one” style contraptions.


8)  Put your name, address and phone number somewhere on your drone in case it gets away from you.


9)  Crashes will not disqualify you.  Bad launches and poor landings do not count as crashes.  You will know when you have crashed when you cannot relaunch or repair it in time to beat the one hour allotted.  If you make it back to the staging area you may prep or repair for the next launch if you have time.  You may also use whatever data that may be salvageable but once you leave the takeoff/landing staging area you may not conduct any further searches.  Please make sure the Contest Directors know that you need to retrieve your drone before leaving the staging area. If you find Missing Objects while going to retrieve your drone we suggest not saying anything.


10)  An object is considered found when you can say what color or shape it is and be able to point to its approximate location on a Google map.  For example, you can say “red shirt” or “shoe” or “body” or “tent” and it will count if you can give a location good enough for those on foot to find it.  No one will be on foot during the contest except those retrieving their crashed drone.


11)  Found objects will count as points. Until the day of the competition it is undetermined exactly what the items will be, but they will reflect real SAR items and situations and be fitting to the missing subjects’ description. The team with the most points wins.  Ties will be broken based on who concludes their search first by DECLARING to a Contest Director that they are done.


12) Professional Organizations may NOT participate in any role other than Contest Director.  You may only use the drone a team member has built and financed 100% with their own money.  Pooling money and building as a team is encouraged.


13) You have ONE HOUR after you have concluded your search (declared done or not) to report Missing Objects to a Contest Director to receive points.


14) You must be landed with propellers not spinning at the end of the flight time of one hour or be penalized.


---Points Awarded---

1 point for accomplishing:

- Auto takeoff (Multi-Rotor or Fixed Wing) 1 point limit

- Auto landing (Multi-Rotor or Fixed Wing) 1 point limit

- Finding a minor search article “shoe, bag, hat, etc.” by declaring its color, no point limit

- Finding a minor search article “shoe, bag, hat, etc.” by correctly declaring exactly what it is, no point limit

- Identifying any form of tracks made by an animal, human or machine. 1 point limit

- Identifying any livestock (cows, chickens, horses etc.) 1 point limit

- Identifying fenced areas and/or unmarked roads (unmarked on Google maps) 1 point limit


3 points for accomplishing:

- Finding major search articles “body, tents, etc.” by declaring its color, no point limit

- Finding major search articles “body, tents, etc.” by correctly declaring exactly what it is, no point limit


Penalties (deductions):

Minus 3 points for crashing.

Minus 5 points for busting 400 feet at any time.

Minus 3 points for busting 350 feet for more than 1 minute.

Minus 3 points for busting the floor limit of 20 feet for more than 1 minute (except for landings!).

Minus 10 points for flying over spectators, second offense is automatic disqualification, DON'T DO IT.

---Mandatory Onboard and Functioning Equipment for Your Drone---

1) Any autopilot

2) Have a Return to Launch/Home option enabled and activatable by a hand held transmitter AND a Ground Control Station

3) Live telemetry feed

4) Failsafe: Return to Launch/Home upon sustained loss of connection to the Ground Control Station (20 seconds is long enough, shorter if you want)


---Other things to know/consider---

1)  The size of the search area has not been determined yet, but it will be fair to the short range of multi-rotors as well as the long range ability of fixed wing.

2)  No object will require you to fly into or close to other objects such as trees in order to see it.

3)  Objects will be “pre-organized” into Major and Minor objects but a list of the objects will not be made known to participants.

4)  You can assume takeoff and landing zones to suck.  Bring your hand launchers, catapults and really fat wheels!



This event could be dangerous to life and limb.  We all know that propellers can cut skin and remove limbs.  You must make every reasonable effort to make your drone as safe as you know how to make it.  Do NOT fly over people, keep your drone in the search field area.  If you think you are going to crash, do so as safely as you can.  Keep your head on a swivel, these are flying objects with speed.


For those who feel intimidated:

Its very ok to feel overwhelmed.  This "hobby" is so new that most people have no clue it exists.  You are one of the few, the proud!  To help more of you to enter this competition I am going to list a few methods in which you can reasonably compete.  And above all else, remember that we are a NETWORK of users, we WILL HELP YOU.

1)  Put a cheap, light down facing camera on whatever you own.  Set up your search grid to match your battery life.  Land, change out the battery, do another grid, rinse and repeat.  Just before the hour is up, land, download your photos OR video and start watching and identifying.

2)  Put a camera on it with video transmission.  While you manually fly around (you still have to have an autopilot though) you are already looking with your own eyes.  You might see something, you might not.  Land, swap batteries, try again!  Don't forget that you need a recording of it all.

3)  For short range setups, examine the area on a Google map and logically deduce where the missing person would have gone.  Easter egg it with a hot glue-gunned mounted camera.  See if you get lucky.

There are many ways to help during a real life SAR mission.  Please do not think you are going up against pros in this contest because you are not.  It's just us NTDUG guys having a good time with our hobby.



**This event is rain or shine. If our venue is a wash-out, for weather or politics, an alert will be announced/posted.

The site selection committee is always looking for new and varied flying sites. If you have one in mind, or even a suggestion on what to look for send me a message to add it to a site list. If possible, please provide a description of the field, a google/bing map link, and a point of contact for that location (if there is one.)

Please send me a message if you would like to serve on the site selection committee as well. The committee will meet briefly, via in person or via VOIP, once or twice a month as needed to consider and select locations for the group.

Keep it safe, we look forward to seeing you (and all of your fingers) at the flight line.



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