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The Drone Innovation Challenge is an important initiative to support industry growth, collaboration and increased local skills and capability to contribute to the development of a $40 billion economy in the Territory by 2030.


In early 2020, Ernst & Young (EY) prepared an initial directions paper regarding opportunities to grow the Territory drone industry, which found:

  • Although the Territory drone industry is in its infancy, a range of characteristics were identified that give it a comparative advantage to pursue drone related initiatives.
  • These include vast, open spaces and skies with climatic extremes, making it an ideal test bed for new drone technologies.
  • With the ultimate goal of commercialising these opportunities, the growth of the drone industry in the Territory can create new jobs and investment along with innovations that improve the lives of Territorians and make our existing industries more efficient, productive and competitive.

The Territory Innovation Challenges Program aims to position the Territory for future investment leading to jobs and economic growth.

The Drone Technology Innovation Cluster in the Territory is designed to accelerate the development of a more competitive, innovation driven economy in the Territory.

The challenge

Businesses, investors, training providers and industry stakeholders are invited to participate in the Northern Territory Government’s Drone Technology Innovation Cluster to grow the Territory’s drone industry. Challenge participants will design a proposal for the Drone Technology Innovation Cluster to facilitate the development of drone technology and associated industries in the Territory.

The winning design proposal will be judged based on which concept offers the most value for the Territory.

The winning consortium will be able to negotiate a contract with the Territory Government for the procurement of the proposal and also receive $100,000 in seed funding.

Challenge criteria

The outcomes the Territory Government seeks include:

  • Development of drone manufacturing, maintenance, and repair capabilities in the Territory.
  • Provision of testing capability in the Territory to drone operators, developers, and manufacturers.
  • Delivery of new education and training opportunities for industry and individuals.
  • Provision of service delivery efficiencies for government.
  • Provision of data storage, management, and analysis services to government and industry for data collected by drones.

Solutions must include:

  • A consortium of partners that includes all of the following:
    • at least 2 Territory enterprises
    • a registered training organisation
    • a research organisation
    • any other partners considered necessary to deliver the solution.
  • The terms on which the centre will host co-located organisations.
  • An engagement and workforce development plan to explain how Territorians will become more digitally skilled through the centre.
  • How the centre will:
    • support the establishment of start-ups, the development and commercialisation of products developed in the centre
    • be staffed and managed.
  • An indicative cost of providing deliverables over 2 years.

The design of the centre will ideally align with the following design principles:

  1. Think big, start small, learn fast, scale up, through open innovation, human centred design, and 4.0 technology.
  2. Support, diversify, and grow our innovation ecosystem to empower Territorians to innovate and commercialise more efficiently and effectively.
  3. Collaborate locally, nationally, and internationally to solve our own problems, strengthen our weaknesses and build on our capabilities.
  4. Deliver innovation to support priority Northern Territory Government strategic objectives including Territory Economic Reconstruction, Digital and Terabit Territory, STEM in the Territory, and climate change.

Alignment with Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade strategic priorities will be highly regarded including:

  • growing a skilled, agile and capable workforce to meet meet industry needs
  • fostering and building capability and capacity of businesses to be profitable, resilient and sustainable
  • championing the adoption of innovation, science and technology to enhance the Territory’s competitive advantage and productivity.

View the Innovation Strategy.

What's in it for you?

The winning design will be offered the opportunity to negotiate a contract with the Northern Territory Government for the procurement of the outcomes proposed in the winning design. Upon execution of the contract, you will receive $100,000 in seed funding, in addition to any other payments negotiated.

The procurement method will form part of the negotiation of the contract. Options could include, however are not limited to fee for service, subscription membership, equity stake, or payments on milestones achieved (for example, the provision of education and training services or the provision of a drone testing facility in the Territory).

The Territory Government will purchase the outcomes and will not take ownership of any IP developed by the consortium to deliver the outcomes.

How it works

An overview of the how Territory Innovation Challenges Program works can be found on the Northern Territory Government website.

An example of a previous Territory Innovation Challenge can be found at Design a Digital Games and esports Centre.

The winner of that challenge can be found at thearray.gg

Before you apply

You must read and understand all judging criteria which comprises the challenge criteria set out above, and the program terms and conditions.

Territory Innovation Challenges Program terms and conditions (PDF 736KB)
Territory Innovation Challenges Program terms and conditions (DOCX 191KB)

    One organisation must be the consortium lead for for matters related to the submission.

    How to apply

    1. Register your interest - your details will be listed below to show your interest in collaborating.
    2. Submit you challenge solution using the online application on the Smartygrants website.

    Businesses interested in joining a cluster

    Surf Life Saving Services Pty Ltd
    Paul Hardy
    0438 664 622

    The Australian Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle Service (AUAVS) is an operational business unit of Surf Life Saving Services Pty Ltd (SLSS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW). The AUAVS is the provider of the largest coastal uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV/drone) surveillance program in the Southern Hemisphere.

    AUAVS can provide consulting, equipment provision, research and development, drone in a box and remote operations centre, long range UAVs.

    Darwin Innovation Hub Projects Pty Ltd
    Dante St James
    08 8943 0600

    Cluster lead experience, preparation of new businesses for investment and scale, local, national and international networking experience, investment and development of drone startups in the Northern Territory, existing relationships with industry, Charles Darwin University and the venture capital ecosystem.

    Darwin Innovation Hub will fulfill the private sector commercial lead/project development lead, commercial roadmaps, opportunity pipeline, assist cluster partners to develop a commercialisation model. Providing investment readiness and international networking opportunities.

    Skyfarer Ltd
    Georgia Hanrahan
    +44 7507 764749

    Medical drone delivery BVLOS experts based in the UK and looking to develop the future of this technology in Australia.

    We are the UK's leading over land BVLOS experts and are able to bring a wealth of operational, technological and compliance knowledge to any consortium group. We have an ecosystem of world leading partners from OEMs to UTMs that we would be able to extract further subject knowledge from if required to benefit the project. Our COO lived in Darwin for many of her younger years and is deeply driven to bring the technology we have developed back to her home country.

    Global Drone Solutions
    Mahmood Hussein
    0499 085 777

    Global Drone Solutions specialises in foundational certifications, offering expert training in the Remote Pilot License (RePL) and Aviation Radio Operator's Certificate (AROC), followed by advanced courses in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, Chief Pilot Training, and Remote Operator's Certificate (ReOC) training, including operations manual development.

    Our comprehensive curriculum also includes a Certificate III in Aviation (AVI30419), positioning us as a leader in providing top-tier education and operational preparedness in the drone industry.

    Global Drone Solutions brings unparalleled expertise in drone pilot training and certification, including advanced operational techniques and compliance, to the Northern Territory's Drone Technology Innovation Cluster. Our contribution will not only elevate the skill level within the drone industry but also foster innovation and regulatory excellence, ensuring the Territory becomes a leading hub for drone technology development and application.

    Dario Valenza
    0412 127 388

    Develop and operate long range drones for surveying and surveillance.
    Proven capability to design, build, test, develop, and obtain regulatory approvals for VTOL/fixed-wing RPAS in the 15 to 150Kg range.

    Expertise and capability in platform, system, and mission design and execution.
    Mature methodologies in manufacturing, integration, testing, and operations, as well as access to a fleet.

    She Maps
    Paul Mead
    0432 469 500

    She Maps is the leading STEM education provider in Australia, using drones to engage students in the drone and geospatial industry, and supports teachers with curriculum mapped resources and professional development. She Maps supports programs in schools nationally, and has extensive experience working in the NT, including in remote communities.

    She Maps can provide consulting, and ready to use solutions for STEM education using drones. We can implement our Partnering for Purpose model to ensure that workforce pathways, and industry connection occurs from P-12 in Territory schools.

    Paul Mead
    0432 469 500

    GeoNadir provides drone mapping software, making it easy to manage, process, analyse, and collaborate on earth observation data collected by drones. GeoNadir is a Northern Australian based business, co-founded by Dr Karen Joyce, an ex-CDU academic.

    We can provide data storage, management, and analysis services to government and industry for data collected by drones, as well as face to face training support on drone mapping.

    Luke Evans
    0447 587 883

    UAVAIR is one of Australia's longest standing RPAS training companies apart of the BASAIR group - the third largest Australian aviation fleet (behind virgin and qantas). We are a registered training organisation (RTO) that specialises in VET in schools, RePL training, ReOC creation and consultation.

    UAVAIR can provide RTO training packages (Certificate 3 in Aviation - Remote Pilot), training and assessment, equipment, licensing, compliance software, consultation and personnel experienced in BVLOS and training/ testing environments.

    Elysium EPL
    Ruth Patterson
    0432 776 179

    Elysium EPL builds capacity in the adoption of Uncrewed Surface Vessels, or 'boat drones', for persistent (> 2 months) data collection in the open ocean. Our Darwin-based subject matter expert has 280+ contact hours operating USVs in the Top End and east coast, and leads a UNESCO UN Ocean Decade project in collaboration with international research organisations. We are a trusted, NT registered business, with strong local and national relationships across first nations groups, Charles Darwin University, NT Government departments and interstate universities.

    Elysium EPL can add local, non-aerial maritime drone capability and industry-knowledge to an NT-based drone industry centre, which would significantly expand the value of the centre. Give us a call today.

    AK Sky Services
    Alex Kaiserman
    0412 786 696

    Drone services provider based in Katherine, NT. We provide drone mapping, asset inspection and will shortly offer drone spraying, seeding and fertilising to the agricultural sector.

    In addition to our standard services we can work in with other members to test and refine drone capability and service offerings in the region.

    Central Drones
    Luke Hoolihan
    0415 095 634

    Supply and operation of innovative aerial solutions. We have partnered with Easy Aerial in the US who support and assist with our vision.

    We can assist in the development of the Territory Drones Cluster and support it's continuing operations. As an Alice Springs based operation, we can provide opportunities for local employment and training ensuring the long term success of the program.

    Air Inspect Australia
    Matt Green
    0412 919 496

    Air Inspect Australia is a proven partner to the civil and construction industries providing safe and efficient asset inspections with innovative data solutions - we acquire, manage and analyse the immense data from aerial inspections. Our core focus is inspection, surveying and mapping, 3D modelling and thermal imaging of high value assets.

    We utilise the latest technology and software to provide cost effective options ensuring quality, consistent and actionable results. From planning to implementation, our strategies are customised to meet your needs, guiding you through each step as we assess your requirements, develop an action plan and implement your solution.

    Our core expertise is in the acquisition of very high quality reality modelling. This requires excellent data management and leads to insightful analysis. In operating these services across Australia, we bring vast real world experience in managing the CASA and other authority regulation requirements and in managing and analysing the vast data acquired.

    Contact details

    Page last updated on 2 April 2024