Albury Possum Works designers strike the interest of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

RELIEF: Tim Sigmund and Jack Hurley at Possum Works, where they developed the Firetail UAS which has won DFAT funding. Picture: MARK JESSER
RELIEF: Tim Sigmund and Jack Hurley at Possum Works, where they developed the Firetail UAS which has won DFAT funding. Picture: MARK JESSER

FROM a modest hub in Albury an idea was born, which has trumped innovations from around the world to attract a share of $2 million.

The money will not only help the designers modify and refine the Firetail unmanned aerial system.

It could help save lives in developing countries.

“The hubs of UAV excellence come out of San Francisco or Silicon Valley – but we are from Possum Works in Albury, NSW," said co-creator Jack Hurley.

“It was a great validation for our concept when we found out we won, it just goes to show what you can do in the bush.

“We have the world’s smallest autopilot developed through Sam Cowen, from Wagga, and have put together very unique technology around the image capturing to make maps quickly available.

“The reality is, this wing can save lives.

“It’s pretty cool to work on a project that has real meaning.”

The team of three designers, Mr Hurley, Mr Cowen and Tim Sigmund, have nurtured the idea from its infancy.

Their Firetail was one of 130 inventions from around the world entered into the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The low-cost drone is designed to be user-friendly and gather real-time images and information from disaster zones in order to target relief.

The men found out they were one of five winning teams, which will share the $2 million to develop their design, on Friday.

Mr Hurley said they would spend the next 12 months perfecting the project for DFAT.

“We will spend the next year prototyping, trialling and travelling around the Pacific islands - Fiji and Vanuatu will be the main two spots,” he said.

“It’s about pre-planing and already having the wings in a Pacific nation so that when there is a cyclone or major damage, the aircraft is readily available in schools, hospitals or government organisations.

“If a humanitarian non-government organisation was looking at an aero-platform, they could pay up to $50,000 for a wing or unmanned aerial vehicle, whereas we can supply hundreds for that cost.”

Mr Sigmund said the trio managed to top at least 30 other drone designs entered to DFAT.

“I think a reason we got through is ours was very much targeted at what they need, we didn't just pick a quad copter off the shelf,” he said.

“This was designed and thought about from the ground up – fit for purpose.

“The nature of humanitarian work is so rewarding.”