DHS Launches $1.5M Challenge to Detect Illicit Opioids Entering the US

The Trump administration has announced a new competition with interagency backing to reward private citizens who develop new tools and technologies t0 help identify illicit opioids trafficked through international mail. (Courtesy of YouTube)
The Trump administration has announced a new competition with interagency backing to reward private citizens who develop new tools and technologies to help identify illicit opioids trafficked through international mail. (Courtesy of YouTube)

On Tuesday, the new Opioid Detection Challenge, which is a $1.55 million USD global prize competition, was launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

The Opioid Detection Challenge calls upon innovators to submit novel plans for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids being trafficked into the United States through international mail.

CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan

“CBP is excited to partner with DHS S&T to identify the next generation of interdiction tools,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

“The technologies that emerge from this innovation challenge will be important elements of our multi-layered approach to combat the flow of opioids and other dangerous illicit drugs.”

The abuse of opioids such as fentanyl has created an unprecedented public health crisis across the United States.

In 2017, approximately 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses.

(Learn More. Drug overdose is now the main cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, they are more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident or gun. Courtesy of BBC Three and YouTube. Posted on Oct 24, 2018.)

Large-scale drug trafficking of fentanyl can occur via small packages sent in the mail as well as through other avenues like ports of entry, making detection a significant challenge.

Jim Carroll, ONDCP Director
Jim Carroll, ONDCP Director

“Stopping the flow of illicit drugs from coming into the United States is a crucial part of addressing the addiction crisis,” explained ONDCP Director Jim Carroll.

“This competition is part of the comprehensive government effort to address the opioid crisis that is devastating too many American communities,” said DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan.

“New tools and technologies offer a critical opportunity to more quickly and accurately detect opioids before they enter the United States.”

Chief Postal Inspector, Gary R. Barksdale
Gary R. Barksdale, Chief Postal Inspector

“Postal Inspectors have always made it their mission to protect the public and the U.S. Postal Service from the dangers of illegal narcotics,” said Chief Postal Inspector, Gary R. Barksdale.

“This challenge and the partnerships involved will provide better mechanisms and technologies to identify and stop the flow of opioids into the country.”  

The Challenge calls on innovators in a wide range of fields, from forensic science to industrial quality assurance to artificial intelligence, to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States.

Submissions should be well-developed plans for automated, user-friendly tools and technologies that have the potential to quickly and accurately detect opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail.

The Challenge is open to international and domestic participants, as defined in the Rules, Terms and Conditions.


The Challenge is open to legal entities and individuals (non-felons) over the age of 18.

Please note solutions should meet the following requirements:

  • Solutions cannot physically penetrate the parcel in any way
  • Solutions cannot involve pretreating the parcels with powders, sprays, solutions or liquids
  • Solutions must rely on information gleaned from the physical parcel, such as height, weight, appearance, handwriting, etc.; solutions may not rely on external data, such as information about the sender and recipient that cannot be discerned from the package itself, or information from government or private/commercial databases
  • Solutions must be moderate in size, no greater than 180″ x 81″ x 78″
  • Solutions must be able to process parcels up to 27″ x 17″ x 17″ in size
  • Though not a requirement, solutions should ideally be able to process parcels up to 27″ x 21″ x 14″ in size

Solutions that do not meet these requirements may be considered ineligible for consideration.

Those interested in participating in the Challenge should submit their plans by 4:59 PM ET, April 24, 2019.

The judges will evaluate the submissions and select up to eight finalists to advance to Stage 2 of the competition.

Each finalist is expected to be awarded an equal share of the $800,000 Stage 1 prize pool.

In Stage 2, finalists will participate in a 14-week prototyping accelerator, during which they will develop their plans into testable prototypes and compete for an additional $750,000 in cash prizes.

Stage 2 will culminate in a live test event hosted by DHS, where finalists will convene for on-site testing of their prototypes.

One grand prize winner is expected to be awarded $500,000 and one runner-up is expected to be awarded $250,000.

DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Honored in the 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program

2018 ASTORS Platinum

  • ‘Excellence in Homeland Security’

  • Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK)


2018 ASTORS Platinum

  • ‘Excellence in Homeland Security’

  • Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environ (EDGE) Virtual Online Training for First Responders


2018 ASTORS Platinum

  • ‘Excellence in Homeland Security’

  • Flood Apex Program Flood Sensors

  • *DHS S&T is also a 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Award Winner

The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program is specifically designed to honor distinguished government and vendor solutions that deliver enhanced value, benefit and intelligence to end users in a variety of government, homeland security and public safety vertical markets.

William "Bill" Bratton, former police commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Boston Police Department (BPD) and former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), will speak at the 2019 'ASTORS' Homeland Security Awards Luncheon at ISC East 2019, on Wednesday, November 20th, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center (Courtesy of Teneo Risk)
Bill Bratton, former police commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Boston Police Department (BPD) and former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), will speak at the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Luncheon at ISC East 2019.)

The 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Program drew an overwhelming response from industry leaders with a record high number of corporate and government nominations received, as well as record breaking ‘ASTORS’ Presentation Luncheon Attendees, with top firms trying to register for the exclusive high – end luncheon and networking opportunity – right up to the event kickoff on Wednesday afternoon, at the ISC East registration!

Over 130 distinguished guests representing National, State and Local Governments, and Industry Leading Corporate Firms, gathered from across North America, Europe and the Middle East to be honored among their peers in their respective fields which included:


  • The Department of Homeland Security
  • The Federal Protective Service (FPS)
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • The Department of Homeland Security
  • The Department of Justice
  • The Security Exchange Commission Office of Personnel Management
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Viasat, Hanwha Techwin, Lenel, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, Verint, Canon U.S.A., BriefCam, Pivot3, Milestone Systems, Allied Universal, Ameristar Perimeter Security and More!

The Annual ‘ASTORS’ Awards is the preeminent U.S. Homeland Security Awards Program highlighting the most cutting-edge and forward-thinking security solutions coming onto the market today, to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay ahead of the competition, and keep our Nation safe – one facility, street, and city at a time.

The 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program was Proudly Sponsored by ATI SystemsAttivo NetworksAutomatic SystemsDesktop Alertand Royal Holdings Technologies.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards at https://americansecuritytoday.com/ast-awards/.


Comprehensive List of Categories Include:

Access Control/ Identification Personal/Protective Equipment Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism
Perimeter Barrier/ Deterrent System Interagency Interdiction Operation Cloud Computing/Storage Solution
Facial/IRIS Recognition Body Worn Video Product Cyber Security
Video Surveillance/VMS Mobile Technology Anti-Malware
Audio Analytics Disaster Preparedness ID Management
Thermal/Infrared Camera Mass Notification System Fire & Safety
Metal/Weapon Detection Rescue Operations Critical Infrastructure
License Plate Recognition Detection Products And Many Others!

Don’t see a Direct Hit for your Product, Agency or Organization?

Submit your category recommendation for consideration to Michael Madsen, AST Publisher at: mmadsen@americansecuritytoday.com.

2018 Champions Edition

See the 2018 ‘ASTORS’ Champions Edition – ‘Best Products of 2018 ‘ Year in Review’ for in-depth coverage of the outstanding products and services of firms receiving American Security Today’s 2018‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards.’


Enter Early to Maximize Media Coverage of your Products and Services at Kickoff, and Get the Recognition Your Organization Deserves!

And be sure to Register Early for the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Awards Presentation Luncheon at ISC East 2019 to ensure your place at this limited- space event!

2018 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Luncheon at ISC East

Why the 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program?

American Security Today’s comprehensive Annual Homeland Security Awards Program is organized to recognize the most distinguished vendors of physical, IT, port security, law enforcement, and first responders, in acknowledgment of their outstanding efforts to ‘Keep our Nation Secure, One City at a Time.’

Why American Security Today?

American Security Today is uniquely focused on the broader Homeland Security & Public Safety marketplace with over 70,000 readers at the Federal, State and local levels of government as well as firms allied to government.

The old traditional security marketplace has been covered by a host of security publications that have changed little over many years.

American Security Today brings forward a fresh compelling look and read with our customized digital publications that provides our readers with solutions to their challenges.

Our Editorial staff provides a full plate of topics for our AST monthly digital editions, AST Website and AST Daily News Alerts.

The editorial calendar and AST’s high drawing website features 23 different Technology and Marketing Sectors such as Access Control, Perimeter Protection, Video Surveillance/Analytics, Airport Security, Border Security, CBRNE Detection, Border Security, Ports, Cybersecurity, Networking Security, Encryption, Law Enforcement, First Responders, Campus Security, Security Services, Corporate Facilities and Emergency Response among others.

These sectors are part of the new integration, where these major applications communicate with one another in a variety of solutions to protect our cities and critical infrastructure.

AST has Expanded readership into vital Critical Infrastructure audiences such as Protection of Nuclear Facilities, Water Plants & Dams, Bridges & Tunnels, and other Potential targets of terrorism.

Other areas of concern include Transportation Hubs, Public Assemblies, Government Facilities, Sporting & Concert Stadiums, our Nation’s Schools & Universities, and Commercial Business Destinations – enticing targets for extremist or lone wolf attacks due to the large number of persons and resources clustered together.

For more information about the Opioid Detection Challenge, visit opioiddetectionchallenge.com.