DARPA SubT challenge (DARPAtv/YouTube)


Sub-T challenge draws underground drone explorers

An armada of drones and robots showed up at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's latest competition to develop technology to find and identify underground artifacts and map subterranean passages and infrastructure.

The tunnel segment of DARPA's Subterranean (SubT) Challenge underneath the Pittsburgh area drew 11 teams from eight countries, each equipped with a variety of autonomous robots, including 20 aerial vehicles, 64 terrestrial robots and a mini-blimp drone in the test, DARPA said. Each team had two hour-long runs on both mine circuits and were scored on their abilities to quickly find the targets.

Four DARPA-funded groups finished in the top five winners, including the Explorer team; CoSTAR (Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Resilient Robots) team;  MARBLE (Multi-agent Autonomy with Radar-Based Localization for Exploration) team; and the CSIRO Data61 team. The self-funded CTU-CRAS team placed third, according to the agency.

The competition now moves to its next stage, the “Urban Circuit” set for February, which will put the technology to use in urban storm drains, utility tunnels and subterrainean transportation systems. A cave circuit will follow in August 2020, then a final competition that combines all three environments will conclude the competition in 2021.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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