Join us for this exciting drone (aka unmanned aircraft system or UAS) prize competition using your ingenuity and hardware build expertise to create a concept for a drone prototype. The result of the First Responder UAS Triple Challenge 3.2 “LifeLink” will support the public safety community and its stakeholders.
The purpose of this Challenge is to advance UAS technologies by building a UAS solution designed to support continuous broadband communications between first responders in the field. Specifically, PSCR is investigating options to enable state and local first responders the ability to continuously deliver Internet Protocol (IP) based data via a UAS. The goal of this challenge is for Contestants to design, build, and fly a complete UAS solution that provides continuous IP connectivity to first responders dispersed in a thick forested area with degraded cellular coverage.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is hosting this 3-stage challenge, with prize awards up to $260,000 for the top designs. There are no fees or qualifications needed to enter the first stage. The most outstanding Stage 1 conceptual designs will be eligible to participate in the remaining stages of the competition see Official Rules.
NIST PSCR established the Innovation Accelerator to spearhead the research that supports the development and deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). PSCR’s Open Innovation team engages public safety entities, government, academia, and industry to identify innovation opportunities and foster technology advancements for public safety communications through prize competitions and challenges.
The number of operational use cases for providing data to first responders in a cellular denied environment is large; however, for the purpose of this contest, we will use a wildland fire scenario as our example. Picture yourself as a wildland firefighter in a remote region. There are multiple other wildland firefighter groups dispersed across a fireline as well as at an incident command post that has been set up away from your location. As time goes on, resources and assets involved in the operation are moving in and around the area. Additionally, the fire is advancing in an unknown direction. It is not entirely clear how the scene is changing from everyone’s perspective. For example, where are the groups of firefighters moving too, where is the current fireline, where are strategic assets such as trucks and heavy machinery, what are the current orders from incident command, etc. A UAS mounted with a broadband transceiver could relay this information between all groups in the field and to the incident command post providing critical situational awareness to everyone involved.
This real-time communications system would provide more than just voice communications. For example, the system could disseminate map information, asset location information, pictures, video, etc. What sort of complete system (UAS & transceiver) could you design to allow for continuous data communications between groups of first responders during a wildland fire? An example could be a UAS equipped with a Wi-Fi system that has multiple antenna beams pointing towards each firefighter group. The UAS must have the ability to maintain communications to each first responder group in the field for as long as possible. Additionally, first responders may be moving in all directions from where the UAS is located, so ensuring that everyone is connected is a top priority.
There are several UAS design features that need to be considered in support of public safety agencies.
- The system needs to be cost effective to fit a first responder’s budget.
- The UAS needs to be easily deployable to operate in degraded launch areas at any time, so the capability of the UAS to have VTOL is necessary.
- The UAS should be compact since space in a first responder vehicle is often limited.
- The UAS should be easily pilotable.
- The system should be able to communicate to all UEs in the area.
- The system needs to support IP communication between the two end points.
UAS Design Specifications
UAS entered for the LifeLink Challenge will be subject to the requirements outlined in the Design Specifications. Click here for details.
PSCR is aware that various organizations may be developing drones with these or similar capabilities; however, these drones typically cost more than what a local public safety department might be able to afford. Additionally, they may not be practical due to the difficulty of transporting large equipment and/or the need for specialized training to operate it, both of which can be difficult for city/state agencies with limited staff and resources. Therefore, PSCR is hosting this 3-stage challenge to design, develop, and demonstrate drones with extended flight time and other capabilities that support first responders to help advance the research and push the boundaries of UAS technology for public safety.
Participants will be asked to:
- Submit a concept paper using an online form, outlining the UAS knowledge, skills, capabilities and design approach for this challenge.
- Create or purchase hardware necessary to build a prototype and implement the design approach outlined within the concept paper.
- Produce a Test flight video demonstrating the UAS prototype capabilities and safety compliance.
- Participate in a Live Competition, conducting flights in Starkville MS June 22 – 24, 2022.
USA Challenge Stages
Total Cash Prize Pool
Up to $260,000
NIST Public Safety Communications Research program is hosting a 3-stage challenge, with development funds, travel, and prize awards as listed below:
- Stage 1 (up to 15): $7,000 each, up to $105,000 total
- Stage 2
- Check-in Review (up to 10): $3,000 each, up to $30,000 total
- Video Evaluation (up to 10): $5,000 each, up to $50,000 total in travel prize awards for Contestants invited to compete in Stage 3
- Stage 3 (up to 4):
- Best Performance: up to $70,000
- 1st Place: $40,000
- 2nd Place: $20,000
- 3rd Place: $10,000
- First Responders Choice award: up to $5,000
- Best Performance: up to $70,000
NOTE: This only describes prize awards; additional contestants may win an invitation to participate in challenge stages but not be eligible to receive prize awards. All Stage 3 Contestants are eligible to compete for all Stage 3 prizes.