Whether it comes to rescuing people from a cave system or the underground maze of sewers, tunnels and the like that exist underneath any major city, having accurate maps of the area is always crucial to know what the optimal routes are, and what the expected dangers are. The same is true for combat situations, where such maps can mean the difference between the failure or success of a mission. This is why DARPA last year started the Subterranean Challenge, or ‘SubT’ for short.
This challenge seeks new approaches to map, navigate, and search underground environments during time-sensitive combat operations or disaster response scenarios, which would allow for these maps to be created on-demand, in the shortest amount of time possible. Multidisciplinary teams from the world are invited to create autonomous systems that can map such subsurface networks no matter the circumstances.
The competition has a ‘systems track’, which has teams developing physical systems that can perform their intended function in a physical environment, ranging from tunnels, urban underground to cave systems. The next qualification deadline is April 22, 2019, for the Tunnel Circuit in August.
In addition to the systems track, there’s also a software-only Virtual competition, which requires that algorithms and similar are developed which can successfully map a virtual environment. Both the systems and virtual tracks will have the final challenge day in 2021.
Also see the attached video trailer DARPA offers for this challenge.
If none of this tickles your fancy, there are also the US Government’s ‘Challenge’ website, which collects a range of challenges offered by government agencies, often for monetary awards.