International military teams have competed in the first ever Military International Drone Racing Tournament (MIDRT) at Victoria Barracks in Sydney.
Teams from Australia, NZ, Thailand, the UAE and UK fought it out on the track in a number of races and freestyle events with the hope of being crowned the world’s best military drone racing team.
Major General Gus McLachlan, Commander Army Forces Command, welcomed the international teams to Sydney.
“The teams have travelled a long way to be here and we are pleased that they have come to Australia to participate in this adaptive and exciting sport,” MAJGEN McLachlan said.
ADM caught up with MAJGEN McLachlan to find out about how the skills on display would translate into tactical and innovation outcomes for Army.
“The ability to see and think spatially in 3D, the ability to manoeuvre these things and look inside of buildings, to me that’s an exciting addition to our dexterity,” MAJGEN McLachlan told ADM.
“The other thing that excites me is the innovation this sport requires. Our new Chief uses this phrase ‘Army in Motion’ – the message is that change is normal, so let’s get it into our mindset. That’s why this is a great sport to introduce.”
“This notion of disruption applies just as much to us as it does to a taxi company facing Uber. The adversary doesn’t have procurement rules.
“Of course, there’s a balance between protecting the taxpayer and making smart Defence decisions, and being able to keep ahead of a rapidly adapting environment. The big projects – ships, submarines, armoured vehicles – necessarily are quite deliberate.
“However, we’re getting better at acknowledging that other projects, like this one, need to be done differently.”
One of the Australian pilots competing at the tournament, Captain James Jenkins of 2RAR, said that the skills learnt in drone racing were directly applicable in tactical situations.
“The skills here are really about the fine motor skills. We won’t use these drones tactically, but the base concepts we learn when we’re racing here are directly applicable to flying Black Hornet. We can conduct a reconnaissance of a beach before amphibious operations, for example, to find out what’s there. It’s a game changer in that regard.”
ADM also spoke with LTCOL David Thorsen, Director of Strategy and Force Planning for the NZDF, about what NZ hoped to gain from the tournament.
“This is a great opportunity to test the waters,” LTCOL Thorsen said. “We’re in the early stages of building a drone culture.
“It’s the way of the future, right? The ability of any tactical commander to put eyes somewhere and improve that situational awareness, whilst being more efficient and safer – it’s a smart way of doing operations.”
“Our capability branch has recognised that the amount of technology coming online now, with such short lifespans, needs a different rate of acquisition. That’s the value in us being here and experimenting.”
For the record, CAPT Jenkins edged out the NZDF’s Kevin MacKenzie to come second in the tournament, behind industry competitor Henry Corbell from XTEK.