About the challenge


What is the 2019 NZ aerospace challenge?


The Challenge will recognise one of the biggest issues facing the agricultural sector – sustainability. Applicants will be asked to develop a product or service that detects, monitors or measures water or soil pollution using the very latest satellite and unmanned aircraft (UA) technology.


New Zealand, with its rich history of innovation and agriculture, has the opportunity to lead the rest of the world in this exciting and important field. The winner of the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge 2019 will be at the forefront of this highly anticipated field of research and development. 

Who should enter?

The Challenge will appeal to those from the science, research, technology, innovation and education eco-systems and those with an interest in agricultural technology and sustainability.


What are the benefits of entering?


Up to 20 top applicants will be invited into an incubator programme and will receive support for the duration of the Challenge, including:

  • Access to Airbus satellite data

  • Access to Airbus SandBox platform

  • Mentorship and training from technology and agritech specialists

  • Advice for conducting UA flight tests within recommended areas

  • Support on flight testing solutions by certified UA operators

  • Guidance from Airways for testing UA solutions

At the end of the incubation period, up to 10 finalists will be selected to participate in the final demo and pitch sessions in Christchurch.

The Challenge will culminate in a national demo and pitch event to be held in Christchurch on 17 and 18 October 2019 where the winning team will be announced.


As overall winner of the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge 2019, you will receive:

  • A cash prize of NZ$30,000

  • Airbus vouchers for satellite data

  • Support to commercialise your idea from industry and Challenge partners

  • A minimum of six months free access to a co-working space in Christchurch to further develop and maximise your ideas for commercial potential

In addition, second and third place winners will receive NZ$5,000, Airbus satellite data vouchers and co-working space in Christchurch. 


Judging criteria:

Judging Criteria

All applications will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Use of space and/or UAV technology (10 points)

    Leverage aerospace technology using satellite data, high altitude, or UA (including fixed wing) technologies to address the Challenge problem statement.

  • Technical feasibility, safety and rigor (10 points)

    Based on sound scientific principles and methods that adhere to safety regulations and requirements.  

  • Innovative solution (10 points)

    Novel and new idea.  Solution has not been brought to market yet.

  • Market viability (10 points)

    Must address market opportunity and scope, and a clear business case or plan for execution for bringing the product or service to market. Plan is easy to implement adopt and scale.  

  • Environmental impact (10 points)

    Maximum positive impact and benefit to society at scale

  • Team composition for execution (5 points each)

    Team has the background and experience to take the demonstrable solution or prototype to develop a viable business.  (e.g. See example team roles here.)

  • Prototype (20 points)

    Practical demonstration of the solution to the Challenge


Additional points (2 points each):

  • Evidence of impact within three years

    Forecasted and demonstrable business outcomes over a three year period that can potentially have a large impact toward solving the challenge problem.

  • Collaboration with multiple stakeholders

    Partnerships with different organizations and collaborators for building the product or service to accelerate development

  • Creative integration (from other technologies)

    Innovative use of existing technologies or industries in solving the Challenge

 Note: Applicants must adhere to NZ regulations for UAV operations when applicable.


Sustainable agritech


Agritech is a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar industry. New Zealand’s agriculture industry is world renowned for food production but currently has very little share of the overall agritech market.


With global warming and an increasing world population, it is imperative to find sustainable farming methods to increase production while minimising its impact on the environment.

It is the goal of the Challenge to leverage these technologies to find new and innovative solutions to help build a sustainable agriculture approach.


Agricultural pollution detection and control


Two major challenges face the agricultural sector globally — reducing water pollution from effluents, fertilisers, and pesticides; and maintaining soil health and managing issues such as leaching, soil erosion, sediments, and runoff from logging. 


Today, monitoring agricultural pollution is labour intensive and provides limited data.

Some research programs use satellite imagery or a combination of remote sensing wavelength bands to detect different kinds of pollution. There is also potential for hyperspectral sensors to detect pollution. These sensors are being flown on aircraft, with some experiments on UA. There is a huge opportunity to leverage satellite and UA data along with sensors to improve detection of agricultural pollution.




The partners

For the Challenge to be successful, a partnership between government, academia and industry stakeholders in aerospace and agritech sectors have been brought together to leverage their networks and resources to provide the right kind of support


The Challenge is managed by ChristchurchNZ and powered by Airbus with support from the following key partners:

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
    Partnership facilitator through the Innovative Partnership Programme

  • Centre for Space Science Technology
    Space technology, satellite data, and application specialisation

  • Airways
    Airspace management and access for UA demonstration and test flights

  • University of Canterbury
    Academic network, technology resources, and facilities

  • Blinc Innovation
    Agritech expertise, farmer/grower community network, and land, technology, and science resources.

  • SpaceBase
    SpaceBase is engaged as a delivery partner bringing their knowledge of space technology and education alongside their global experience running similar challenges — including the 2018 NZ Space Challenge with ChristchurchNZ.