The DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Challenge aims to develop innovative technologies that would augment operations underground. The SubT Challenge will explore new approaches to rapidly map, navigate, search, and exploit complex underground environments, including human-made tunnel systems, urban underground, and natural cave networks.
Tunnels can extend many kilometers in length and include highly constrained passages, multiple levels, and vertical shafts. Urban underground environments are often more structured and constructed out of human-made materials, but can have complex layouts that cover multiple stories and/or span multiple city blocks. Natural cave networks often have irregular geological structures, with both constrained passages and large caverns, and unpredictable topologies often stretching large distances in extent and depth.
These environments present significant challenges for situational awareness. In time-sensitive scenarios, such as active combat operations or disaster response settings, warfighters and first responders face increased technical challenges including difficult terrain, unstable structures, degraded environmental conditions, severe communication constraints, and expansive areas of operation. For these reasons, natural cave networks, human-made tunnels, and urban underground environments have consistently played a central role in historical warfare and military operations. The SubT Challenge will ensure that our warfighters and first responders are equipped with the technologies and capabilities they need to effectively execute their future missions.
Given the complexity of these environments, the SubT Challenge seeks to inspire technological breakthroughs to offer key insights into:
The SubT Challenge is organized into two competitions (Systems and Virtual), each with two tracks (DARPA-funded and self-funded). Teams in the Systems tracks will develop and demonstrate physical systems to compete in live competitions on physical, representative subterranean courses, and focus on advancing and evaluating novel physical solutions in realistic field environments. Teams in the Virtual tracks will develop software and algorithms using virtual models of systems, environments, and terrain to compete in simulation-based events, and explore larger-scale runs in simulated environments that explore significantly expanded scenario sizes and durations.
Teams will compete in three preliminary Circuit events and a Final event pursuing high-risk and high-reward approaches. The Final event, planned for 2021, will put teams to the test with courses that incorporate diverse challenges from all three environments. Teams in the Systems track will compete for up to $2 million in the Systems Final event, with up to $200,000 in additional prizes available for self-funded teams in each of the Systems Circuit events. Teams in the Virtual track will compete for up to $1.5 million in the Virtual Final event, with additional prizes of up to $500,000 for self-funded teams in each of the Virtual Circuit events.