A GROUP of innovative minds have come together in Albury to create a drone which could attract at least a $100,000 investment and lead to more jobs on the Border.
The Firetail unmanned aerial system was the concept of Jack Hurley, who teamed up with Tim Sigmund for technical support and autopilot designer Sam Cowen, of Wagga.
The Firetail was created to be easy to use, cheap to make and effective at gathering real-time geographical images from disaster zones to determine where help is most needed.
It can be produced for about $300 – 10 per cent of the cost to make similar drones on the market.
Months of hard work went toward entering the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge run by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Firetail was announced in the top 10 of 130 entries from around the world.
Mr Hurley, of Albury, said the Possum Works hub, which he founded, had supported the project so far.
“We are pretty happy to have been named in the top 10 for a worldwide thing and we are hopeful it will put the Border on the map,” he said.
“If we turn it into a business, we would absolutely start something based here - manufacturing the whole lot.”
Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji during the design process, which Mr Hurley said kept their objective at the forefront of their minds.
“Imagine a situation like Fiji, we want to limit the training someone would need,” he said.
“We want them to take the aircraft out, press four buttons on it and throw it – that's it.
“The whole idea when it comes back, it has over 500 images after 30 minutes and will have images stitched together on a geographical map. This can be watched in real time as long as there is connectivity.”
As first-round winners, the men were part of a two-day design sprint in Canberra on Monday and Tuesday where they worked with companies such as World Bank and Google.
Award winners will share a $2 million Challenge Fund, distributed in grants of $100,000 to $1 million based on the quality of the submissions and their financing requirements.
Mr Sigmund, who teaches sound production at Wodonga TAFE, said the opportunity could accelerate their ability to start manufacturing.
“If we were doing it ourselves, it would take a long time, this could get it off the ground within months rather than years,” he said.
“This is a big difference to what is in the market, we built the whole thing ourselves and have simplified it.”