Drones were a defining symbol of the new millennium. A technology that would not only lead the military into a new frontier of combat and surveillance; but delight technophiles around the world and become a form of recreation in their own right.
Drones made their debut in the early 2000’s, assisting the CIA with targeted killings in the Paktia province in Afghanistan.
Nearly two decades later, and drone flying – or “Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Operation” – is now an army trade of its own; and a growing obsession among Gen Z archetypes, who have likely encountered the technology in non-military pursuits, such as sports photography or film-making.
Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce of the Australian Army believes that tapping into this national obsession is key to attracting the right people into the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
“Young drone racers have taught themselves using YouTube videos how to solder, code, fly, datalink and make their own videos – these are the young STEM people we want in the ADF” he says.
“We are the only army so far that’s pushed tactical drones down to a combat platoon”, he adds, referring to the Army Black Hornet project.
“We’re riding the technology wave. We know it’s important. Right from the top, we’re resourcing the [drone] plans. Through our efforts this year, we’ll be the only Army in the world that every soldier has access to a drone and can become drone literate and understand how drones work”.
Lieutenant Colonel Joyce also uses the term ‘drone’ in his recruitment outreach efforts. “If we’re trying to grab people’s attention, we’ll use the word drones. Quite frequently around the recruiting circuit or around our public engagement circuit, we’ll say things like, “Hey, do you fly drones? Do you want to fly drones? Do you enjoy flying drones? Because if you do, you can fly drones for a job in army”.
Extending its STEM engagement and drone racing efforts, the Australian Army has announced it is hosting the Military International Drone Racing Tournament in October, in association with Invictus Games 2018.
The tournament aims to raise awareness of adaptive sports, the Army’s UAS capabilities and provide an opportunity for engagement between the drone racing community, the ADF and individuals with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) interests.
Teams – invited from 34 nations – will compete over three days at Victoria Barracks in central Sydney over 18 to 20 October.
The event will be widely advertised in Defence media prior to the tournament to promote attendance from both Defence and the Public. And in addition to the contest itself, a demonstration of racing drone freestyle performance will occur at the site of the Invictus Games in Homebush on 23 October.
Presenting at the ADM STEM in Defence Summit – 21 August 2018 in Canberra – Lieutenant Colonel Joyce will share details of this exciting initiative as well as the other measures the Australian Army is taking to attract and retain talent in the ADF.