The First Responder UAS Challenges
Supported by       NIST       PSCR

The First Responder UAS Challenges – Supported by NIST & PSCR

The First Responder UAS Challenges

The First Responder UAS Challenges are a series of prize competitions hosted by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) The Public Safety Communications Research Division (PSCR).

Supporting the advancement of communications technology for first responder search and rescue (SAR) operations, these competitions offer competitors the opportunity to test their ingenuity, hardware knowledge and expertise in creating UAS prototypes for public safety.

The First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge
View UAS 4.0 Details

UAS 4.0 (Launched in 2022)

The First Responder UAS Indoor Challenge (UAS 4.0)

Indoor disaster response and SAR operations can be some of the most dangerous and difficult scenarios for First Responders. NIST PSCR needs your innovative UAS solutions to support First Responders by scouting an indoor structure and increasing first responders’ situational awareness prior to entry.

The outcomes of an ideal indoor UAS operation are improving the usability, or flyability, lowering the total cost of the UAS platform, and making enhancements to autonomous sensors while operating with limited or no GPS signal.

Total Prize Amount: $685,000

Stage 1: Concept Paper Contest: $100,000

The following winners received $5,000 and an opportunity to compete in Stage 2.1 of the Challenge.

Stage 1 Winners:

  1. AAUNO
  2. Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicle (AMAV)
  3. Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC)
  4. Banc3
  5. Cleo
  6. CNA-RIIS
  7. DistressNet
  8. iAI Tech-NJIT
  9. Nalu Technology
  10. New Horizon Innovations
  11. NYU ARPL
  12. Purdue
  13. R4-AI
  14. Sonalysts UAS Research Team
  15. Team FLYT
  16. Team ManTech
  17. Team xVolent
  18. TK6
  19. Uniform Sierra Aerospace
  20. vRotors

Please note that this Challenge is still in progress.

The First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge
View UAS 3.0 Details

UAS 3.0 (2021-2022)

The First Responder UAS Triple Challenge

The First Responder UAS Triple Challenge was an exciting prize competition, with a total of $514K in awards designed to help save lives faster and support advancing first responder SAR operations. The challenge allowed competitors to use their ingenuity, hardware knowledge and expertise to create a concept for a UAS prototype through three different challenges.


Challenge 3.1 – Fastfind: UAS Search Optimized

Total Prize Amount: $245,000

Competitors aimed to help advance UAS technologies by building and flying UAS designed to extend the capabilities of current generation first responder SAR operations using a UAS in a heavily forested area.

The goal of this challenge was to build a UAS solution that helps a SAR team locate multiple missing persons more efficiently by improving image detection and enhanced navigation techniques to ‘close the distance’ more quickly.

First Place ($40,000): Team Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicle (AMAV) – University of Maryland

Second Place ($20,000): Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Third Place ($10,000): Team Aggie – NCAT Purdue

First Responder’s Choice Award ($5,000): Team Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicle (AMAV) – University of Maryland

Additional prize money was distributed for prior Stages of these challenges.

Challenge 3.2 – Lifelink: UAS Data Relay

Total Prize Amount: $159,000

Competitors aimed to help advance UAS technology by building a solution designed to support broadband communications for local and state first responders in the field who need the ability to send and receive digital information continuously while dispersed in a thick forested area and no cellular connectivity.

The goal of this challenge was for competitors to innovate cost-effective, robust, and easily deployable solutions to this current technical barrier.

First Place ($40,000): Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Second Place ($20,000): Team ManTech / FLYT Aerospace

Third Place ($10,000): Team EpiSys

First Responder’s Choice Award ($5,000): Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Additional prize money was distributed for prior Stages of these challenges.

Challenge 3.3 – Shields Up! Securing UAS Navigation & Control

Total Prize Amount: $110,000

Competitors aimed to help identify UAS cybersecurity threats and build innovative countermeasures for those threats related to the disruption and preservation of UAS navigation and control to prevent mission failure.

The goal of this challenge was for competitors to demonstrate attacks on open-source software and use their creativity to design the countermeasures.

Stage Winner ($30,000): Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Stage Winner ($30,000): Team CNA Corporation / RIIS, LLC

Stage Winner ($30,000): Team ManTech / FLYT Aerospace

Additional prize money was distributed for prior Stages of these challenges.

The First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge
View UAS 2.0 Details

UAS 2.0 (2020-2021)

The First Responder UAS Endurance Challenge

Imagine a scenario where a citizen is lost in the desert. The existing Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) only covers 5% of the search area because of the local topography. A team of first responders deployed to the incident area need to rely on your UAS to carry wireless communications equipment that can be deployed quickly and support emergency response teams in the area.

The result of this Challenge was to expand current drone capabilities (i.e., vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), accuracy, stability, safety), payload management, and flight endurance to support SAR operations and other public safety missions of similar need.

Total Prize Amount: $455,000

First Place ($100,000): Team Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC)

Second Place ($40,000): Team Intelligent Energy

Third Place ($20,000): Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Best In Class Awards ($5,000 each)

Endurance: Team Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC)

Innovation: Team Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC)

Cost Effectiveness: Team Endure Air

Weight: Team Endure Air

Autonomy: Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC)

Ease of Use: Team Endure Air

First Responder’s Choice (2 awards):

  • Team Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC)
  • Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC) – Penn State University

Additional prize money was distributed for prior Stages of the challenge.

The Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight and Payload Challenge
View UAS 1.0 Details

UAS 1.0 (2018)

Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight and Payload Challenge

One of the barriers for UAS used in a public safety realm is payload versus flight time. VTOL for a UAS provides many different mission capabilities, but their flight time is limited. The payload capacity, energy source and flight time are linked through design trade-offs that can be optimized for efficiency and flexibility.

This challenge was designed to keep the UAS and its payload airborne for the longest time possible to support first responders’ communication technology on the ground while they conduct their search. The advancement of this UAS research was designed to help SAR operations support payloads for wireless communications or other life-saving goods to save lives.

Total Prize Amount: $262,000

First Place winner ($50,000): Team DV8 Tech

Additional prize money was distributed for prior Stages of the challenge.

The First Responder UAS Challenges
Supported by       NIST       PSCR

The First Responder UAS Challenges – Supported by NIST & PSCR