Underground settings are becoming increasingly relevant to global security and safety.
Rising populations and urbanization are requiring military and civilian first responders to perform their duties below ground in human-made tunnels, underground urban spaces, and natural cave networks.
Recognizing that innovative, enhanced technologies could accelerate development of critical lifesaving capabilities, with their newest challenge: the DARPA Subterranean Challenge.
The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Subterranean or “SubT” Challenge aims to explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments.
Teams from around the world will be invited to propose novel methods for tackling time-critical scenarios through unknown courses in mapping subsurface networks and unpredictable conditions, which are too hazardous for human first responders.
(The DARPA Subterranean Challenge seeks multidisciplinary teams from around the world to compete in the development of the autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility technologies necessary to map explore and search underground networks in unpredictable conditions. The SubT Challenge Competitors’ Day offers interested potential competitors additional information about participating in either the Systems or Virtual competitions. Courtesy of DARPA and YouTube. Posted on Jul 6, 2018.)
“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,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO).
“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,” added 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.”
Like previous challenges, DARPA-funded and self-funded teams will compete side by side.
Teams can compete in one or both of two complementary research tracks:
The Systems track, to develop hardware and software to test on a physical course
Or the Virtual track, to develop software-based approaches to test on a simulated course