So folks, I thought I might as well create a thread for this, considering that things are starting to really happen with it.
I'm currently the project manager (guy who manages the technical teams) for a university team who are developing and building an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for the 2014 Outback Rescue UAV Search and Rescue Challenge.
Here's a documentary (~40 minutes long) about last year's attempt at the challenge.
As part of this challenge, we'll be required to design, built, test and fly a UAV which can fly ~7km to a search area, and then autonomously search that area (which is 2x2 nautical miles) for a dummy wearing a high-visibility work short ("Outback Joe" - seen in image above). We must then provide accurate GPS coordinates for his location and, if they are correct, drop a 500mL water bottle to him.
The idea is that we are locating a farmer stranded on his property (in Australia, a farm / property may stretch for dozens, even hundreds of km) and we are tasked with locating him and giving him water, which isn't necessarily easy to come by in the Australian outback.
My team seeks to accomplish this task with a fixed-wing UAV, based off the Mugin airframe, which has a 3m wingspan and can apparently do ~1.5 hours for 3L of fuel (we must be able to fly for at least 60 minutes). We will be powering it with a 5.7HP 2-stroke, 2-cylinder petrol engine (for model aircraft) which should let it cruise between 120 and 150kph.
For electronics, we will be using 2 ArduPilot Mega 2.6 autopilots, which will fly the aircraft and provide most of our telemetry. They will operate parallel to one another and both report back to a Pandaboard, which is a mini-computer which is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core ARM processor. This Pandaboard will gather the information from the ArduPilots, as well as footage from a gyro-stabilised GoPro Hero 3 (used for it's sensor and out-of-the-box wide range of settings). With the footage, it will perform image analysis, looking for potential targets. It will then gather up the footage (including close-ups of what it thinks could be a person) as well as telemetry data, and broadcast it back via a 900MHz, 1W radio (telemetry only) as well as a 5.8GHz, 500mW radio.
As of early November 2013, we have received all of our electronics (with some very minor exceptions) as well as our first airframe.
This thread will follow the story of our development.