The University of the West of England (UWE) and High Tech Bristol and Bath are launching the world’s first racing competition for autonomous aircraft, or drones.

“This is not about human piloting skills; it is about building machines and systems that can operate without human intervention”


MAAXX-LogoThe MAAXX (Micro Aero Autonomous Extreme) air race will be held in January 2017 at the UWE Exhibition Centre alongside a technical conference.

The UAV piloting can be done from a groundstation, but it must be fully automatic. “This is not about human piloting skills; it is about building machines and systems that can operate without human intervention,” said Steve Wright, senior lecturer in Avionics and Aircraft Systems at UWE and a former Airbus engineer. The aim of the competition is to enhance the development of control algorithms for autonomous vehicles, building of the hardware, software and aerospace skills in the region.

The course is a long oval; the straights are 25 metres long and 2 metres apart and the track is 2 metres wide. There will be a speed prize for the fastest 10 consecutive laps of the course, and the competition is open to teams from around the world. Teams from the US and Israel are already lining up to compete.

If you are interested in getting involved Steve explains a bit more of what you’ll need in the video below:


The maximum vehicle take-off weight of 1kg and a maximum vehicle size of 1 metre in any dimension and it needs to be battery powered, not a combustion engine, as the racing is indoors. No human intervention is permitted once the competitor is on the course but control from any ground-station equipment via wireless link is permitted, making this the first time autonomous aircraft have raced.

Any wireless communications methods are permitted (e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, XBee, 2.4GHz). However, all competitors are expected to co-operate with the judges to ensure EM compatibility between everybody.

Unlimited attempts are permitted at any time during the competition. Competitors may fly whenever a flying slot becomes available. A slot is defined as no less than 2 meters from the nearest competitor on entering the course. There is no limit on the vehicle configuration: fixed-wing, rotary, or hybrids are all permitted.

You can see more and register for the competition at the Maaxx Europe website.