Subterranean Challenge Proposers Day Set for Jan. 18

Teams are invited to propose novel methods for tackling time-critical scenarios through unknown courses in mapping subsurface networks and unpredictable conditions that are too hazardous for human first responders.

DARPA's Subterranean ("SubT") Challenge is asking teams to explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments, such as tunnels and caves. Teams are invited to propose novel methods for tackling time-critical scenarios through unknown courses in mapping subsurface networks and unpredictable conditions that are too hazardous for human first responders.

"One of the main limitations facing warfighters and emergency responders in subterranean environments is a lack of situational awareness; we often don’t know what lies beneath us," Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said in December 2017. "The DARPA Subterranean Challenge aims to provide previously unimaginable situational awareness capabilities for operations underground."

The Subterranean Challenge Proposers Day is scheduled for Jan. 18 in Arlington, Va. Advance registration is required and will close at noon Eastern time on Jan. 10 for on-site attendance and noon Eastern on Jan. 16 for virtual attendance, or until capacity is reached.

"We've reached a crucial point where advances in robotics, autonomy, and even biological systems could permit us to explore and exploit underground environments that are too dangerous for humans," said TTO Director Fred Kennedy. "Instead of avoiding caves and tunnels, we can use surrogates to map and assess their suitability for use. Through the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, we are inviting the scientific and engineering communities—as well as the public—to use their creativity and resourcefulness to come up with new technologies and concepts to make the inaccessible accessible."

DARPA-funded and self-funded teams will compete side by side. Teams can compete in one or both of two research tracks: the Systems track, to develop hardware and software to test on a physical course; and the Virtual track, to develop software-based approaches to test on a simulated course. Teams in both tracks will compete in three preliminary Circuit events and the Final event, with each Circuit event exploring the difficulties of operating in a specific underground environment (first is human-made tunnel systems, the second will focus on underground urban environments such as mass transit and municipal infrastructure, and the third will focus on naturally occurring cave networks). The Final event, planned for 2021, will put teams through courses that incorporate diverse challenges from all three environments; the winner of the Systems track will get a $2 million prize, while the winner of the Virtual track will earn a $750,000 prize.

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