Some of the most dangerous environments in the world lie below ground but because this is exactly where military and civilian first responders may have to operate in tunnels, underground urban spaces, or natural cave networks, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency recently launched the DARPA Subterranean Challenge.
The DARPA Subterranean or SubT Challenge wants to explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments to improve critical lifesaving capabilities,
Teams from around the world are being invited to put forward innovative methods for tackling time-critical scenarios in underground networks with unpredictable conditions too hazardous for humans to operate in.
Both military and emergency personnel lack knowledge of subterranean environments. “We often don’t know what lies beneath us,” says Timothy Chung, programme manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “The DARPA Subterranean Challenge aims to provide previously unimaginable situational awareness capabilities for operations underground.”
“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.”
As in previous challenges, DARPA-funded and self-funded teams will compete in developing hardware and software to test in exploring the d challenges of operating in a specific underground environment. The first will focus on human-made tunnel systems. The second will focus on underground urban environments such as mass transit and municipal infrastructure. The third will focus on naturally occurring cave networks.
There are significant cash prizes up for grabs and a Broad Agency Announcement for the DARPA Subterranean Challenge is anticipated to be released in the coming months and will be available on FedBizOpps.gov. Email questions to SubTChallenge@darpa.mil.