Search and rescue (SAR) operations that occur in unfamiliar environments may present danger to first responders where they would benefit from strengthened situational awareness. For example, SAR operations that take place in an indoor, constrained environment, such as a partial building collapse, require reliable tools to assess the risks to first responders and other SAR resources before entering the building. Those operating UAS indoors may also encounter obstacles, such as limited lighting and lack of global positioning system (GPS), which may require a different response to an incident. Certain scenarios can be life-threatening if humans are sent in first to assess the environment and provide information back to incident command before deploying other first responders on-site. At present, cost-effective unmanned aircraft system (UAS) solutions do not exist that gather information and promote safer initial response efforts while providing valuable intelligence.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division sought innovative UAS solutions to support First Responders by scouting an indoor structure and providing information about its condition and situational awareness prior to entry. The goal of this challenge is for contestants to design, build, and fly a cost-effective UAS that is easy to control, highly durable, and provide first responders with a high-quality video signal needed to detect human life and assess hazards in the environment. Improvements to UAS usability and flyability, along with more advanced autonomous sensors that operate with no GPS signal, should to help UAS operators or pilots save the lives of first responders and the community.
For the additional contest information, visit firstresponderuaschallenge.org/uas4 and https://www.challenge.gov/?challenge=uas4.
Challenge solution video coming soon!
UAS 4.0 resulted in nine UAS prototypes that met or exceeded the minimum requirements for demonstrating their capabilities in a series of rigorous live tests at an indoor flight facility at KSU Polytechnic in Salina, Kansas. Seven UAS prototypes successfully operated in a simulated constrained environment, equipped with debris and obstructions, by locating and identifying targets that tested the alignment and acuity of the sensors onboard the UAS prototypes. Two additional solutions attempted locating and identifying targets in the simulated constrained environment but did not succeed due to command & control or related factors. In addition to operating in a simulated constrained environment, the final nine solutions collectively demonstrated the ability to ascertain real-time situational awareness with a minimum of 15 minutes of continuous flight time, various levels of autonomous operation, and demonstration of optional preferred features: thermal imaging, night vision, perching, two-way audio, cold battery swap, and auto-flip. All nine solutions demonstrated a set-up time of their system in under 3 minutes, from a transport-ready to mission-ready configuration, and proof of flyability by scoring points using NIST Test Methods, a series of bucket tests to show operational readiness and system capabilities – all while keeping the total system cost under $5,000.
In addition to delivering promising UAS solutions, UAS 4.0 facilitated the execution of a live indoor testing and evaluation framework that can be replicated for future studies. The collected data and other artifacts will enable public safety, researchers, and industry to gain new insights for UAS advancement beyond the Challenge. For more information on winning solutions, click on the team names in the Stage 3 chart below.
|1st Place||Team AMAV from University of Maryland||$100,00|
|2nd Place||Team Uniform Sierra||$70,000|
|3rd Place||Team TK6||$45,000|
|4th Place||Team ARCC from Penn State University||$30,000|
|5th Place||Team CNA Corporation / RIIS LLC||$25,000|
|Best-in-Class: Ease of Operation||Team AMAV from University of Maryland||$7,500|
|Best-in-Class: Ease of Operation||Team Uniform Sierra||$7,500|
|Best-in-Class: Flyability||Team AMAV from University of Maryland||$15,000|
|Best-in-Class: Additional Preferred Capabilities||Team AMAV from University of Maryland||$15,000|
|Best-in-Class: Price||Team Uniform Sierra||$15,000|
|Best-in-Class: First Responders' Choice||Team AMAV from University of Maryland||$15,000|
|Best-in-Class: First Responders' Choice||Team TK6||$15,000|
The following winners each received $7,500 in prize awards and an invitation to participate in Stage 3: Live Test and Evaluation:
The following winners each received $7,500 in prize awards and an invitation to participate in Stage 2.2: Prototype Build & Safety Evaluation; Walk-on entries were invited.
The following winners each received $5,000 in prize awards and an invitation to participate in Stage 2.1: Design Review:
The First Responder UAS Indoor Challenge was hosted by NIST’s PSCR Division and implemented by Capital Consulting Corporation, in partnership with Kansas State University, Salina, KS.
More information about UAS 4.0 may be found on https://www.challenge.gov/?challenge=uas4.