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NSWC Crane AISUM Prize Challenge

Seeking AI algorithms to combine with Robotic Autonomous Systems for Small Unit Maneuver elements.

Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane, Division (NSWC-CR)

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $250,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas, Technology demonstration and hardware, Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: Office of Naval Research Science and Technology (ONR), NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge
Submission Start: 12/10/2020 02:00 PM ET
Submission End: 01/29/2021 02:00 PM ET

Description

Artificial Intelligence for Small Unit Maneuver (AISUM) combines Naval Expeditionary Warfare and Special Operations Forces (SOF) tactical maneuver elements with Robotic Autonomous Systems (RAS) to create a low risk human machine maneuver element that gains, maintains and extends access in complex, contested and congested areas, providing a decisive advantage and precision application of effects.

Over the past 20 years the SOF community perfected the combination of its tactical maneuver elements and small arms precision fire with overhead unmanned and remotely piloted airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) in its aerial delivered strike to precisely find, fix and finish networked threats. However, these non-state actors mostly operated in a two-dimensional battlespace that was mainly rural and urban sprawl, with little to no access to Electronic Warfare (EW) tools.

Though the Special Operations community have become masters of the 2-dimensional threat environment over the past two decades, with today’s emerging threat environments, adversaries attempt to contest all domains with advanced technologies and take advantage of the complex and congested 3-dimensional battlespace. This reduces the effectiveness of SOF tactical maneuver elements, ISR and precision fires, creating the inability to maintain continuous airborne ISR feeds and key communications and navigation bands in the electromagnetic spectrum in these dense urban clutter environments, leaving our tactical maneuver elements challenged.

For example, in a mission to infiltrate and obtain information or an asset from a sub terrain tunnel system in a contested and congested threat environment, AISUM could be used to gain intelligence and minimize human risk. Conceptually, satellite imagery would provide the initial data used to generate a 3-dimensional terrain map of an area of operations, allowing mission planners, operators and drones to plan, train and rehearse within the simulated environment. These activities allow the team to develop and optimize specific tactics, techniques and procedures.

General Overview

This Prize Challenge reaches out to the defense, academic and industrial community to enhance research and development in the field of artificial intelligence for small unit maneuver. The objective of the Prize Challenge is for the development of an algorithm to enhance the maneuver and reconnaissance capabilities of autonomous drones within defined scenarios. The objective includes the utilization of the Government Furnished Property (GFP) drones, sensors, and onboard processing.

Example Scenario 1:

  1. Maneuver: Begin mission at entrance to building. Navigate through the building using open passages and any route to exit through open rear door.
  2. Recon: Identify and count the number of key predefined objects, and simple properties (i.e. color) within the internal space (TBD: humans, object of interest)

Example Scenario 2:

  1. Maneuver: Begin mission at entrance to building. Navigate through the building, around limited obstacles in order to maximize coverage, and then exit through open rear door.
  2. Mapping: Collect data of internal space to produce, post-hoc, a 3D model of the internal environment.
  3. Recon: Identify the number and location of key predefined objects within the internal space (TBD: humans, object of interest).
  4. Recon: Identify numbers of civilians vs combatants (threat / no-threat) within internal space. (TBD: identifying characteristics)

The AISUM Prize Challenge is broken into three phases; technical white paper submission, virtual simulation environment, and live scenario at a military training site.

Phase I will be conducted in two phases: Initial submission of White Paper Concept followed by an invitation to provide Virtual Presentation of the White Paper Concept. The White Paper Concept shall describe the details of the technical approach in response to the problem statement.

White Paper Concept should be developed around the following conditions:

  • GFP will consist of stretch X drone, onboard processing, frontal camera, and optical avoidance sensors
  • Operation in a Non-GPS environment and an autonomous flight mode
  • Additional hardware payload proposals may be considered

The Government will select up to 25 White Papers Concept(s) for invitation for a Virtual Presentation of their proposed concept to a panel of judges. The Virtual Presentation shall provide a summary of the White Paper Concept and include detail on how participants intend to accomplish the Prize Challenge objective. Up to 10 winners will be selected to participate in Phase II.

Phase II participants shall develop specific algorithms that will be used to compete in virtual scenarios. The participants will be evaluated for their algorithms to be used within a Government provided virtual map.

GFP Includes:

  • Microsoft Research AIRSIM environment for autonomous system using UE Unreal Engine Version 4
  • Map will be an open environment containing a multi-story, multiple room building

Up to 10 winners will be selected to participate in Phase III.

Phase III participants will utilize their developed algorithms with the provided drone and compete in real life scenarios.

  • GFP will consist of stretch X drone, onboard processing, frontal camera, and optical avoidance sensors
  • Operation in a Non-GPS environment and an autonomous flight mode

All winner(s) will be determined at the end of this phase.

Key Dates

The government estimates the following timeline for the completion of the prize challenge.

Phase I

  • Technical White Paper Submission open 50 calendar days
    • Opens Dec. 10, 2020
    • Closes Jan. 29, 2021
    • NSWC Crane Project Talks: Dec. 17, 2020 (A virtual panel was available to answer questions related to the challenge.gov posting and the Prize Challenge from 1300-1500 ET)
      • NSWC Crane Project Talks Presentation can be found here
      • The recording of this event can be found here
  • Evaluation period 10-14 calendar days
  • Virtual presentation 14 calendar days
  • Complete internal documentation/obtain approval after final evaluation: 7-10 days

Phase II

  • Virtual Vignettes over the course of 90 calendar days
  • Complete internal documentation/obtain approval after final evaluation: 7-10 days

Phase III

  • Live event at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) 4-5 calendar days
  • Complete internal documentation/obtain approval after final evaluation: 7-10 days

Questions & Answers

Official responses to questions that have been received will be uploaded to beta.SAM.gov via Special Notice N0016420SNB14. View this beta.SAM posting here.

Prizes

The total prize purse is currently $250,000, which is expected to be paid out in Phase II. The Government reserves the right, in its sole discretion and subject to the availability of funds, to increase the prize purse up to $1,000,000 during the execution of the challenge to be paid out in later phases.

Prize Breakdown

  • Phase I – No prize purse
  • Phase II – Prize purse up to $250,000 will be disbursed among the winners
  • Phase III – No prize purse (subject to availability of funds; the Government expects the prize purse to increase to $500,000 for Phase III)

Rules

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility is subject to verification by the Government before cash prizes are awarded. Participants (residents or entities) who are designated by the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control are not eligible to receive any cash prize in the Challenge. Participants who are listed, or become listed, on the Excluded Parties List found on www.sam.gov or have any active exclusions may not eligible to receive any cash prize in the Challenge.

Only U.S. citizens and entities incorporated in and maintaining a primary place of business in the United States are eligible to receive cash prizes in this Challenge.

Federal employees, including NSWC-CR employees, and NSWC-CR support contractors acting within the scope of their employment are not eligible to participate in the challenge. Likewise, members of their immediate family (spouses, children, step-children, siblings, step-siblings, parents, step-parents), and persons living in the same household, whether or not related, are not eligible to participate in any portion of this Challenge. Federal employees and contractors acting outside the scope of their employment should consult their ethics official and appropriate management before participating in the Challenge.

Individuals and organizations that are funded by NSWC-CR, but not limited to, any Federally Funded Research and Development Centers and University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), or private-sector personnel whose scope of work includes NSWC-CR development or administrative support are not eligible to participate in the challenge.

Terms & Conditions

These terms and conditions apply to all participants in the Challenge.

Agreement to Terms. By responding to this announcement, the participant agrees to comply with and be bound by the rules (including these terms and conditions) of this prize challenge and the decisions of the Government. The final scores and final determination of Winner is final and binding on all Participants. The final scores of the Judging Panel and the final determination of Winner may not be challenged by the Participants.

Security Requirements. By responding to this announcement, the participant agrees to comply with the DoDM 5200.01 (all volumes) and any revisions to this manual.

Participation by Government Support Contractors. Government support contractors will assist in the review of any data provided by participants. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been signed by the support contractors with the Government that precludes them from disclosing any proprietary data outside of the Government. If participants desire a separate NDA with the Government support contractors, participants should submit a NDA form, along with instructions, with their initial qualification application.

Follow-On Acquisition. At the Government’s discretion, the Government may choose to award a FAR-base procurement contract, Other Transaction Authority (OTA) award (under 10 U.S.C 2371 or 2371b), a procurement contract for experimental purposes (10 U.S.C. 2373) or a combination of awards under those authorities to any chosen participant in this prize challenge. If the Government chooses to award an OTA award under 10 USC 2371b, the Government may also decide to award a follow-on production OTA award using the same authority.

Malware. Each participant warrants that any submission is virus free and free of malware.

Data Rights and Marking. All data submitted under the Prize Challenge will be made available to NSWC-CR and parties authorized to act on behalf of the NSWC-CR as discussed below. By accepting these Terms and Conditions, the Participant consents to the use of data submitted to NSWC-CR. Any materials submitted to NSWC-CR as part of a prize challenge submission become NSWC-CR records and will not be returned.

The use of protective markings such as “Do Not Publicly Release – Trade Secret” or “Do Not Publicly Release – Confidential Proprietary Business Information” in the Header or Footer of the Submission is strongly encouraged where appropriate. However, Participants should be aware that the use of protective markings is not dispositive as to whether information will be released publicly pursuant to a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) 5 U.S.C. §552, et. seq., as amended by the OPEN Government Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-175. Any information received from the Participant is considered to be a federal agency record, and as such, subject to public release under FOIA. Decisions to disclose or withhold information received from a Participant are based on the applicability of one or more of the nine FOIA exemptions, not on the existence or nonexistence of protective markings. All FOIA requests received by NSWC-CR are processed in accordance with 10 C.F.R. Part 1004. Participants will be notified of any FOIA requests for their submissions in accordance with 29 C.F.R. § 70.26. Participants may then have the opportunity to review materials and work with a NSWC-CR FOIA representative prior to the release of materials.

By participating in this Challenge, each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) warrants and assures the Government that any data used for the purpose of submitting an entry for this Challenge, were obtained legally through authorized access to such data.

Upon submission, the Participant hereby represents and warrants that:

  1. it is the sole author and copyright owner of the submission; that the submission is an original work of the Participant and that the Participant has sufficient rights to use and to authorize others, including NSWC-CR, to use the submission, as specified throughout the Official Rules; that the submission does not infringe upon any copyright or upon any other third party rights of which the Participant is aware; and that there are no known or pending patents on or related to the technology proposed within the submissions or, if there are known or pending patents, that the patent holder grants to the Government a fully paid, nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to use, or have used on the Government’s behalf, reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform and display publicly copyrightable works of the patented material. Except as provided above, any submission shall be accompanied by a statement delineating which intellectual property rights and licenses will not be extended to the government for this challenge.
  2. the submission, and any use thereof by NSWC-CR is not defamatory or libelous in any manner; does not constitute or result in any misappropriation or other violation of the publicity rights or right of privacy of any person or entity, or infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate any intellectual property rights, privacy rights or any other rights of any person or entity.
  3. it is free to enter into this challenge without the consent of any third party and has the capability to fully perform its obligations as stipulated by the Prize rules.
  4. there is no suit, proceeding, or any other claim pending or threatened against the Participant, nor does any circumstance exist, to its knowledge, which may be the basis of any such suit, proceeding, or other claim, that could limit or impair the Participant’s performance of its obligations pursuant to the Prize rules or Terms and Conditions.
  5. it will not infringe, violate, or interfere with the intellectual property, publicity, privacy, contract or other right of any third party in the course of performance of this agreement or cause NSWC-CR to do any of the same.

By participating in this Challenge, each individual (whether participating singly or in a group) warrants and assures the Government that there are no known or pending patents on or related to the technology proposed within the submissions or, if there are known or pending patents, that the patent holder provides the Government a description of the patented material and its use in the proposed Challenge solution.

Relationship of the Parties. Nothing contained in these Terms and Conditions is intended to create or constitute a relationship between NSWC-CR with the Participants. Participation in the Prize Challenge does not imply any form of sanction, endorsement or support of the Participant by the NSWC-CR, nor does it grant either party any authority to act as agent, nor assume or create any obligation, on behalf of the other party. Participant may not use the NSWC-CR logo or official seal in their submission.

Taxes. Tax treatment of prizes will be handled in accordance with U.S. Internal Revenue Service guidelines. The winners must provide a U.S. taxpayer identification number (e.g. a social security number) to receive the cash prize.

Payment. Winner(s) agree to accept payment via electronic funds transfer. Participants selected as monetary prize winners must submit all required taxpayer identification and bank account information required to complete an electronic payment of the monetary prize. Failure to provide the Government required documents for electronic payment within 30 days of notification by the Government may result in a disqualification of the winning entry. Each Winner, will be required to sign and return to NSWC-CR, within 30 days of the date the notice is sent, a completed Standard Form 3881 (Automated Clearing House – Miscellaneous Payment Enrollment) showing bank routing number for payment purpose and a completed IRS Form W-9 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irspdf/fw9.pdf). At the sole discretion of NSWC-CR, a winning participant will be disqualified from the challenge and receive no prize funds if:

  1. the person/entity cannot be contacted
  2. the person/entity fails to sign and return the required documentation within the required time period;
  3. the notification is returned as undeliverable;
  4. the submission or person/entity is disqualified for any other reason.

Government Right to Cancel, Suspend or Modify Challenge. The Government reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, suspend or modify the Challenge. These rules may be changed without prior notice, and all participants should monitor https://challenge.gov for the latest information. The Government further reserves the right to select no winners and award no prize money if the Government determines, in its sole discretion, that an award is not in the best interest of the Government.

Responsibility for Costs Incurred. Nothing in these rules, to include information on the websites publicizing the award, may be interpreted as authorizing the incurrence of any costs, or modifying the statement of work or authorizing work outside the terms and conditions of any existing agreements or contracts with the Government. Participation in this prize challenge is at participant expense. The Government will not be responsible for any costs incurred by the participant, to include submission costs, travel costs, technology demonstration or development costs or any associated costs.

Release of Claims. The participant agrees to release and forever discharge any and all manner of claims, equitable adjustments, actions, suits, debts, appeals, and all other obligations of any kind, whether past or present, known or unknown, that have or may arise from, are related to or are in connection with, directly or indirectly, this prize challenge or the participant’s submission.

Liability. By participating in this challenge, the participant agrees to assume, and thereby has assumed, any and all risks of injury or loss in connection with, or in any way arising from participation in this challenge, or development of any submission. Based on the subject matter of the prize challenge, the type of work that it will require, as well as the unlikeliness of claims for death, bodily injury, property damage, or loss potentially arising from or related to participation in the prize challenge, no individual or entity participating in the prize challenge is required to obtain liability insurance.

Indemnification. The participant agrees to indemnify the Government and its affiliates, directors, officers, employees against all liabilities, damages, losses, costs, fees (including legal fees), and expenses relating to any allegation or third-party legal proceeding arising from:

  1. the participant’s acts or omissions in relation to the Challenge (including the participant’s use or acceptance of any prize and the participant’s breach of these Terms); and
  2. the participant’s submissions violating any rights of any other person or entity or any obligation the participant may have with them.

Compliance with Laws. The participant agrees to follow and comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies.

Disclaimers. All content provided by the government is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis. The government disclaims all representations and warranties (express or implied), including any warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The government is not responsible for any incomplete, failed, or delayed transmission of your application information or submissions due to the internet, including interruption or delays caused by equipment or software malfunction or other technical problems.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the united states government.

Severability. If any term (or part of a term) of these terms or rules is invalid, illegal or unenforceable, the rest of the terms or rules will remain in effect.

Translations. In the event of any discrepancy between the English version of these terms and rules and a translated version, the English version will govern.

Governing Law. This prize challenge is subject to all applicable federal laws and regulations. ALL CLAIMS ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THESE TERMS WILL BE GOVERNED BY THE FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Availability of Funds. The Government’s obligation for prizes under 10USC2374a is subject to availability of appropriated funds from which payment for prize purposes can be made. No legal liability on the part of the Government for any payment of prizes may arise unless appropriated funds are available to the United States Navy for such purposes.

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

The Technology Presentation and Technology Demonstration Results will be presented to NSWC-CR.

Judging Criteria

The Phase I Judging Criteria will evaluate the technical approach as it demonstrates appropriate, realistic, innovative, and cost-effective solution to resolve the problem statement.

The Phase II and Phase III Judging Criteria will evaluate time and successful navigation of the building, mapping, specific object detection and classification, and the time to report results after scenario completion.

If multiple technologies of similar type or category are submitted, the review panel may choose the most advantageous solution(s) within each type or category to continue competing in the prize challenge. The Government selection will be based on a comparative evaluation of participants proposed solution. The Prize Selection Decision will be a subjective evaluation of all entries for each phase at completion of this challenge.

How to Enter

Entries for Phase I must be submitted via email to Marissa Wagler at marissa.wagler@navy.mil on 29 January 2021 no later than 02:00 PM ET. Submissions received after the deadline may not be considered.

Submissions shall reference both the challenge name and participant name in the subject line in the following format: NSWC_Crane_AISUM_Prize_Challenge_Participant_Name Phase I Submission

Initial Submission of White Paper Concept

Initial submission of the White Paper Concept shall not exceed five pages and required to be in the following format.

  • Text size shall be no smaller than what is equivalent to Microsoft Word, Times New Roman, 10 point, uncompressed font.
  • Pages shall be single sided, one and one half line spaced, with a minimum of one inch margins on all sides. Pages shall be dated and numbered sequentially.
  • Legible tables, charts, graphs and figures shall be used when necessary to depict organizations, data, drawings, systems and layout, implementation schedules, plans, etc. For tables, charts, graphs, and figures, the text shall be no smaller than 8 point, Times New Roman. These items WILL be included in the page count.
  • Electronic files shall be formatted for Microsoft Windows Office 2010: text shall be prepared using Microsoft Word compatible formats; spreadsheets, worksheets, or workbooks shall be prepared using Microsoft Excel 2010 compatible formats, and presentations prepared using PowerPoint compatible formats. All schedules shall be prepared in Microsoft Project 2010 compatible applications.
  • A glossary shall be included of all abbreviations and acronyms used with an explanation for each that will NOT be included in the page count.
  • A cover sheet should be include with the following information:
    • Challenge Title
    • Name(s) of company(ies) and POC individual(s)
    • Address(es)
    • If a company, CAGE or DUNS Code
    • Point of Contact Telephone and Email address
    • State if the participant a U.S. Company (an entity incorporated in and maintaining a primary place of business in the United States) or a U.S. citizen?
    • If applicable, provide verification that the individual currently maintains a DoD security clearance or the company has a Facilities Clearance (per DoD 5220.22-M, 28 Feb 2006)
    • A description of the participant’s previous experience and expertise with AISUM
    • A description of the participant’s experience in collaborating with other companies to design, manufacture, and field relevant products.

The cover sheet will NOT be included in the page count for each volume.

Participants are required to complete a Statement of Acknowledgement from providing confirmation of compliance to all eligibility requirements listed herein with submission of the White Paper Concept.

Point of Contact

Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email