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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge

Sensor system to measure air pollution during wildland fires

Environmental Protection Agency

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $60,000
Type of Challenge: Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: Forest Service, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Submission Start: 04/06/2017 11:00 AM ET
Submission End: 11/22/2017 05:00 PM ET


Challenge Summary:

Federal, state, local, and tribal agencies are interested in new ways to monitor air quality during fire events to better protect public health. Air quality managers and public health officials have limited access to accurate information on ground-level air pollution levels in the vicinity of wildland fires, making it difficult to provide appropriate strategies to minimize smoke exposure. Most air pollution monitoring equipment is large, not easily transportable, and complex to operate. Today, emerging technologies – including miniaturized direct-reading sensors, compact/powerful microprocessors, and wireless data communications – offer the opportunity to develop new systems to quickly gather and communicate air pollution data.

Wild fires are increasingly common events that produce significant air pollution, posing health risks to first responders, residents in nearby areas, and downwind communities. Also, wild fires are increasing in frequency and intensity, and the fire season is growing longer. Prescribed fires, which are used to manage ecosystems or reduce risk of wild fires, are typically managed to minimize downwind impacts on populated areas; however, people in close proximity may still be exposed to smoke. The description “wildland fires” refers to both wild and prescribed fires.

This challenge seeks a field-ready prototype system capable of measuring constituents of smoke, including particulates, carbon monoxide, ozone, and carbon dioxide, over the wide range of levels expected during wildland fires. The prototype system should be accurate, light-weight, easy to operate, and capable of wireless data transmission, so that first responders and nearby communities have access to timely information about local air quality conditions during wildland fire events.


The Challenge award is contingent upon qualitative evaluation and experimental validation of the submitted Solutions by the Seeker. The maximum award for meeting all the requirements is $60,000. If more than one meets all the requirements, the Seeker will decide on a winner that best fits their needs. In the event that no solution meets all the requirements, the Seeker may, at their discretion, give partial awards to those submissions deemed promising from a minimum of $10,000 up to $50,000.

In addition to the potential award, all Solvers providing prototypes will directly receive information on their system’s laboratory test results as well as qualitative feedback by air monitoring experts. If the system proves to be reliable and useful, deployment of a larger-scale sensor network is anticipated as part of follow-up projects measuring smoke impacts during wild and prescribed fires.


Solution Requirements: Specific requirements for the sensor systems, such as pollutant detection limits and precision and accuracy targets, are provided in the challenge description (see

Eligibility: Any sensor developer or researcher is invited to participate in the Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge. International submissions are welcome. There are some restrictions for federal employees and others with work already funded by a federal agency (See eligibility criteria at

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. See for details.

Written submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on November 22, 2017. Late written submissions will not be considered. Once the written submissions are received, the Seeker will request prototypes and provide directions for shipping after the above deadline. Prototypes along with supporting documentation must be received by the Seeker by January 5, 2018, for testing.

Informational Webinars for Potential Solvers:

May 8th at 1:00 pm Eastern (5:00 pm GMT): and Audio: 1-866-299-3188, code: 919 541 1894

May 16th at 8:00 am Eastern (12:00 pm GMT): and Audio: 1-866-299-3188, code: 919 541 1894

Questions about this Challenge? Please direct any requests for clarifications and additional information about this challenge to As the administrator for this challenge, InnoCentive will contact the federal partners, as needed, to answer your questions and will also make the responses available to all registered solvers if they provide relevant additional information. To submit your questions to InnoCentive, register for the competition at the InnoCentive website. Registration is free and easy. Once you have registered, you will be able to see the full details of this challenge. After reviewing the full details, if you still have questions, InnoCentive provides each registered solver with the ability to submit their specific questions to the challenge administrator.

How To Enter

For additional Challenge details, including specific requirements for the sensor systems, please register at All official submissions must be received via this InnoCentive website.

Submission: The submission to the Challenge should include the following:

Step 1: A written preview of the proposed solution addressing specific Solution Requirements presented in the Challenge. The written preview, expected to be about 3 pages, should include a brief description of the measurement principle for the four target pollutants, size (weight and dimensions), power requirements, maintenance procedures, data communications, and cost estimate for a production scale, turn-key sensor network kit composed of six sensor nodes and one central data receiving unit. You should also include a photograph of the prototype sensor system (not part of the 3 pages above). This preview will be reviewed to ensure the proposed system can be accepted for laboratory evaluation.

Step 2: If the proposed solution is accepted for testing, the Solver will provide:

  1. A prototype sensor system capable of rapid deployment and continuous monitoring of air pollution during a fire event. The system should include a central data receiving unit and at least two nodes that collect air quality and location data that is transmitted back to the central receiving unit on a 5-minute frequency. The central data receiving unit may be cloud-based if FedRAMP compliant (
  2. Supporting documentation, including the following: 1) Operation manual with sufficient detail for an end user to independently operate and maintain the sensor system, 2) Description of any potential safety hazards were the system to be exposed to fire, and 3) Cost estimate for a production scale, turn-key sensor network kit composed of six sensor nodes and one central data receiving unit