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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

First Responder UAS Triple Challenge 3.3: Shields Up! Securing UAS Navigation and Control

Improve security on UAS control channels and navigation functions

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $200,000
Type of Challenge: Technology demonstration and hardware
Partner Agencies | Federal: First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet the Authority)
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: FIRSTNET Built with AT&T
Submission Start: 2021/08/02 9:00 AM ET
Submission End: 09/30/2021 9:00 PM ET

Description

Join us for this exciting drone (aka unmanned aircraft system or UAS) prize competition using your ingenuity and design expertise to improve security on UAS control channels and navigation functions by creating a concept for a drone prototype that demonstrates threats and their corresponding countermeasures in a working drone. The result of the First Responder UAS Triple Challenge 3.3 “Shields Up” will support the public safety community and its stakeholders.

The purpose of the Shields Up Challenge is to explore and advance the cybersecurity of UAS technology to support first responders in their missions. The use of UAS expands public safety’s ability to gather critical data, whether they be from video, cameras, sensors, or peripherals, and allows them to obtain this information more quickly and efficiently than deploying boots-on-the-ground.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is hosting this 3-stage challenge, with prize awards up to $200,000 for the top designs. There are no fees or qualifications needed to enter the first stage. The most outstanding Stage 1 conceptual designs will be eligible to participate in the remaining stages of the competition see Official Rules.

You can make a difference! Continue reading to learn about challenge stages and details. To enter Stage 1, submit your entry by September 30, 2021. Entries can be submitted through the Contestant Portal on the Challenge website at https://uastriplechallenge.com.

Summary of Important Dates

  • August 2, 2021: Shields Up Challenge is open for proposal submissions through the challenge website; begin Stage 1
  • September 20, 2021: Stage 1 Closed for proposal submissions
  • October 29, 2021: Stage 1 Announce winners; begin Stage 2
  • December 6 - 10, 2021: Stage 2 Check-In Review conducted with eligible Stage 2 Contestants
  • December 20, 2021: Stage 2 Check-in - Announce winners
  • February 21, 2022: Stage 2 Team Video Evaluation conducted with eligible Stage 2 Contestants
  • March 1, 2022: Stage 2 Team Video Evaluation - Announce winners; begin Stage 3
  • April 4 - 8, 2022: Stage 3 Live Demonstration Contest will take place at Contestants’ designated flight locations while being evaluated by an on-site Challenge auditor
  • May 1, 2022: Final Winners Announced

NOTE: NIST reserves the right to revise the dates at any time.

Background

NIST PSCR established the Innovation Accelerator to spearhead the research that supports the development and deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). PSCR’s Open Innovation team engages public safety entities, government, academia, and industry to identify innovation opportunities and foster technology advancements for public safety communications through prize competitions and challenges.

Project Objectives

The purpose of the Shields Up Challenge is to explore and advance the cybersecurity of UAS technology to support first responders in their missions. The use of UAS expands public safety’s ability to gather critical data, whether they be from video, cameras, sensors, or peripherals, and allows them to obtain this information more quickly and efficiently than deploying boots-on-the-ground.

Public safety uses a myriad of solutions for their UAS needs, including commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) UAS and open-source/do-it-yourself (DIY) hardware and software. The term UAS applies to many types of aircraft that are being incorporated into public safety missions:

  • Crime scene processing
  • Cross-agency aid
  • Damage assessment (man-made or natural event)
  • Disaster response
  • Fire or explosives
  • Infrastructure inspections
  • Major traffic accident investigations
  • Search and rescue missions
  • Special events or public safety assessments
  • Tactical deployment
  • Terrorism response

As UAS technology becomes more pervasive in the public safety mission, it will become crucial to protect these assets from disruptions in navigation and control.

The public safety use case for UAS is multifaceted. However, all UAS must maintain controlled flight and successful navigation at their core in order to complete their missions. A UAS that flies to the wrong location or is delayed in reaching a time-crucial objective is as good as a UAS that has not taken flight. A UAS that is hijacked due to a malicious attacker not only jeopardizes public safety missions, it also compromises responder assets. In both of these cases, the compromised UAS causes mission failure.

Contestants in this Challenge are required to frame their threats and countermeasures concerning the disruption and preservation of UAS navigation and control to prevent mission failure:

  • UAS Navigation - The ability of the UAS to successfully move between two points within 3D (three dimensional) airspace.
  • UAS Control - The ability for a pilot-controlled UAS to successfully maintain flight control within a 3D airspace.

With the innovative solutions discovered through this Challenge, PSCR seeks to improve UAS cybersecurity for state and local first responders as they deploy UAS for law enforcement, firefighters, and other emergency services. To accomplish this, we seek to:

  • Identify real-world threats to UAS flight, navigation, and control technologies
  • Identify countermeasures for these threats
  • Demonstrate the threat and countermeasures on a functional UAS.

Contestants are required to demonstrate attacks on open-source software for UAS navigation and/or control. Contestants are encouraged to use innovation and creativity when designing their countermeasures. Possible solutions include but are not limited to:

  • Updates and/or modifications to existing open source software
  • Newly developed software
  • Newly developed hardware
  • Secure UAS configuration guidance.

NOTE: Contestants are required to review the Official Rules for a description of Challenge Areas, Challenge Guidance and Disqualifying Solutions.

PSCR understands the potential for organizations to be developing drones with these or similar capabilities, such as for the DoD; however, these drones are expected to cost more than what a local public safety department might be able to afford. Additionally, they may not be practical due to the difficulty of transporting large equipment and/or the need for specialized training to operate it, both of which can be difficult for city/state agencies with limited staff and resources. Therefore, PSCR is hosting this 3-stage challenge to design, develop, and demonstrate drones with extended flight time and other capabilities that support first responders to help advance the research and push the boundaries of UAS technology for public safety.

Deliverables Due

Participants will be asked to:

  • Submit a concept paper using an online form, outlining the UAS knowledge, skills, capabilities and design approach for this challenge.
  • Create or purchase hardware necessary to build a prototype and implement the design approach outlined within the concept paper.
  • Produce a Test flight video demonstrating the UAS prototype capabilities and safety compliance.
  • Participate in a witnessed live technology demonstration at the competitor’s location April 4 – 8, 2022.

UAS Challenge Stages

Table providing overview of challenge stages. If you are having trouble reading this table, please see the Official Rules document linked in the Rules section of this listing for details.

Prizes

Total Cash Prize Pool

Up to $200,000

Prize Breakdown

NIST Public Safety Communications Research program is hosting a 3-stage challenge, with prize awards listed as follows:

  • Stage 1 - Concept Paper (up to 10): $3,000 each, up to $30,000 total
  • Stage 2 - Check-in Review (up to 10): $2,000 each, up to $20,000 total
  • Stage 3 - Live Demonstration (up to 5): $30,000 each, up to $150,000 total

NOTE: This only describes prize awards; additional contestants may win an invitation to participate in challenge stages but not be eligible to receive prize awards. All Stage 3 Contestants are eligible to compete for all Stage 3 prizes.

Rules

See the Official Rules for details on all aspects of the challenge.

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

The submissions will be judged by a qualified panel of expert(s) selected by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at its sole discretion. The panel consists of U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST and non-Department of Commerce, NIST experts and will judge the submissions according to the judging criteria in order to select winners. The decisions of the judges for the contest will be announced in accordance with the dates noted in the “Summary of Important Dates.”

Judging Criteria

Stage 1 Criteria

See the Official Rules for details on all aspects of the challenge. NIST will review each Contestant entry in the Concept Paper Contest. A submission that fails to meet the compliance criteria will be disqualified and will be ineligible to compete in this stage. Submissions that pass the initial compliance review will be evaluated and scored by a panel of judges. NIST makes an independent assessment of each concept paper based on the scoring criteria outlined below. Do not include sensitive materials in the concept paper, for example personally identifiable information such as social security numbers or business sensitive information, tax id numbers, etc.

Stage 1 judging criteria. If you are having trouble reading this table, please see the Official Rules document linked in the Rules section of this listing for details.

Concept Papers will be evaluated based on the Scoring Criteria above. The specific scores will not be released publicly or provided to the Contestant. Up to 10 Contestants will be awarded prize awards of $3,000 each and receive an invitation to Stage 2: Design/Build and Video Evaluation.

See Official Rules for judging criteria associated with all other Stages of the contest.

How to Enter

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