Autonomous Drones Compete in Underground Challenge

Autonomous Drones Compete in Underground Challenge

Emesent’ s Hovermap recently competed in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge taking second place in this prestigious event. Over the next few weeks Lidar News will be providing an in-depth look into this event.

Part 1 – The Challenge Rounds

The portion of the Emesent – CSIRO Data61 – Georgia Tech team that were able to travel to the US to compete in the final round of the DAPRA SubT Challenge.

DARPA is always looking to the future to identify what partners within the Department of Defense need in the future. They look at their current technologies and identify gaps. They then stimulate research in these areas. When they noticed that warfare and search and rescue mission locations had transitioned to more underground environments. However, the technology had not yet adapted as situational awareness is mostly based on information from high-altitude drones and satellites. 

They created the DARPA SubTerranean (SubT) competition to develop technology to capture rapid situational awareness in challenging GPS-denied environments. 

The competition requirements were a fleet of autonomous systems to navigate, search, and map the subterranean environments to identify and geo-reference the location of artifacts like backpacks, cell phones, trapped survivors, and even invisible gas and provide this information to the human operators in a safe location.

The SubT challenge started in 2018. It included seven teams that DARPA had selected and funded, as well as self-funded teams. There were three rounds, through three courses designed to really stress the systems and to test their abilities to access all areas.  Teams were eliminated as the rounds progressed.

Tunnel System – Sep 2019 – Pittsburgh 

an underground mine environment

Urban Underground – Feb 2020

Urban underground environments, like subway platforms, can have complex layouts with multiple stories and span several city blocks.

Cave Circuit  – held remotely due to COVID (Nov 2020)

Was supposed to be held in the US but had to be modified due to COVID. It happened in a decentralized way, with each team creating their own event locally in their own country and sending the results back to DARPA.

We went to the Chillagoe Caves in far north Queensland. This was a turning point for us – we’d never had results like this. We got perfect data from a very challenging environment.

Final – Sep 21 – Kentucky

Included a smaller number of entries as it acted as previous rounds were the heats before the final. The course included tunnels, urban and natural cave environments. 

Look for Part 2 to follow.

You can find more information about the DARPA SubT challenge on their website:

For more information on Emesent and autonomous drones compete CLICK HERE.

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