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2024 First Responder UAS Wireless Data Gatherer Challenge

Coming soon: next UAS prize competition to launch spring 2024

In spring 2024, NIST PSCR will launch a new concept for the UAS 6.0 Competition — the Wireless Data Gatherer! Teams will compete in a multi-stage prize challenge for a total prize pool of up to $800,000 USD!


This competition represents the challenge of finding, inspecting, and gathering information from transmitters out in the field over an extended period of time. Examples of public safety missions having this requirement include: 

  • Periodically gathering data from lightweight, low-powered, disposable sensors dropped ahead of an oncoming fire in a mountainous area with no communications infrastructure. 
  • Searching for victims in the immediate aftermath of a building collapse in an “urban canyon environment” by locating their cellphone signals. 
  • Allowing plant operators and public safety to maintain situational awareness of surviving IoT sensors in an industrial plant immediately after an accident or incident that disrupts the plant and its usual monitoring capabilities. 


This challenge pushes the capabilities of UAS, radio communications and mapping, and AI. We welcome teams who specialize in one or more of these areas, as well as teams who have broad expertise across all of them. For more specialized teams, we offer a variety of resources and support for their participation.

  1. For teams with extensive UAS expertise (e.g., past NIST PSCR UAS challenge participants), NIST PSCR will publish instructions for building examples of basic implementations of radio systems. These are capable of baseline levels of performance in the challenge and can easily integrate into existing or new UAS. These example implementations leave open many opportunities for teams to build on and improve competition performance. 
  2. For teams who may not be familiar with UAS but instead have expertise in specific technologies that are relevant to this problem, NIST PSCR will provide an opportunity to present their capabilities, independent of a UAS. Examples of such technologies include novel radio and antenna systems suitable for deploying on a UAS, autonomous mapping of radio environments, AI for path planning and exploration in complex environments, and so-on. A subset of these teams will be awarded support to help them with integrating their technologies into a UAS to compete in the rest of the challenge.


All teams will field a UAS consisting of a single aircraft and a ground control station. A variety of test methods, developed by NIST and international collaborators, will measure teams’ UAS capabilities. These test methods decompose the aforementioned example missions into statistically significant measurements of elemental capabilities. We will focus on capabilities that include safety, endurance, radio performance, and autonomy. NIST PSCR will select finalists based on these measurements.

Finalists will then have the opportunity to deploy their UAS in a variety of complex outdoor scenarios that resemble the example missions listed above. Systems operating with minimal or no human intervention will have an advantage. 

All teams must demonstrate, at various points in the challenge, an understanding of the Cybersecurity and AI risks associated with using their technologies in a public safety context and how end users should manage these risks. 

Interested in Joining?

Specific prize challenge information, such as individual prize amounts, challenge phases, timelines/deadlines, evaluation process, judging criteria, and eligibility are forthcoming. However, we encourage those interested to start planning their participation, thinking of their team formation, and brainstorming applicable research and viable solutions based on this initial information. To stay informed, share your interest to psprizes [at] (psprizes[at]nist[dot]gov)!

Created February 29, 2024