What are you up to between 8 and 16 November 2014? If you haven’t made plans for that week yet, perhaps you should consider taking your autonomous drone to the foot of Mount Kenya to compete in the Flying Donkey Challenge.
The Flying Donkey Challenge is a multi-year programme designed to accelerate development of an unmanned transport system suited for Africa. Success is defined as being able to circumnavigate Mount Kenya, a 200 km route, within 24 hours, visiting payload collection and delivery points along the way. The drone must be able to carry 20 kg of cargo, having space for two containers the size of commercial airline carry-on luggage. Maximum take-off weight must be kept below 60 kg.
The challenge is quite a lofty goal given the current payload ratios of small unmanned craft. Technological progress is not the only enabler: In order for flying donkeys to become a reality, the regulatory regime must be supportive, and it is important that the service can develop and sustain itself as private enterprise. Reflecting on these points, the challenge breaks down the main goal into sub-challenges. The 2014 annual challenge thus concerns itself with precision navigation as well as legal and business plan challenges.
The challenge is run by a Lausanne, Switzerland, based foundation and seems very well funded. Each year up until 2020, $2m are available in grants and $1m in prize money for completing sub-challenges. The three first teams to complete the challenge will share in a $2m grand prize. Adding it all up comes to US $23m between now and 2020.
The deadline to apply is in a month’s time, 28 February 2014.