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NIST PSCR competition seeks innovative technologies and researchers for UAS wireless data gatherer prize challenge

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is launching its sixth prize competition to continue advancing Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS, aka drone) technology for first responder search and rescue operations, with a total prize purse of up to $730,000. The competition will accept entries beginning May 28, 2024, with multiple stages running through April 2025.

The First Responder UAS Wireless Data Gatherer Challenge seeks innovators with applicable expertise across and beyond the UAS ecosystem including artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), radio communications, and cybersecurity. Specifically, competitors will conceive of and build a UAS solution that can find, inspect, and gather information from transmitters in a field over an extended period of time. 

Challenge results will benefit the public safety community and its partners by improving real-time situational awareness and saving lives while operating in potentially dangerous radio-complex outdoor environments. 

“This is an exciting competition that focuses on unique UAS features for first responders, as well as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence risks associated with operating a UAS,” said Terese Manley, the UAS portfolio lead for NIST PSCR. “The drone industry has grown exponentially in recent years and public safety UAS programs have too. First responders are using UAS during critical missions so we’re looking at specific capabilities for UAS to operate safely, affordably, and effectively.”

Every challenge focuses on a different use case. This challenge has been designed to simulate how an emergency could be monitored with active data collection, such as for wildfires or urban responses.

The First Responder UAS Wireless Data Gatherer Challenge offers competitors up to $730,000 in prizes across three stages, culminating in a Stage 3 live competition next spring. In this final stage, winning technologies will undergo a series of flights within operational scenario mockups to be tested and evaluated. A panel of judges and subject matter experts, with expertise in UAS, public safety missions, and academia, will determine prize recipients through each stage of the competition. 

The First Responder UAS Wireless Data Gatherer Challenge seeks innovators with applicable expertise across and beyond the UAS ecosystem. To learn about the challenge, eligibility requirements, and links to the registration site, visit

NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. The PSCR Division, which is housed within NIST’s Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL), is the primary federal laboratory conducting research, development, and evaluation for public safety communications technologies. To learn more about NIST, visit 

NIST Media Contact:

To arrange an interview and/or any media inquiries with NIST, please contact Jennifer Huergo at (202) 309-1027 and Jennifer.Huergo [at] (Jennifer[dot]Huergo[at]nist[dot]gov).

Released May 28, 2024