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Sun, Oct 21, 2012

NASA Eyes Centennial Challenge For Unmanned Aircraft

Prize Of Up To $1.5 Million Considered For Successful Demonstrations

NASA is looking at the possibility of awarding up to $1.5 million in its Centennial Challenge Program for the development of solutions for integrating unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. The open prize competitions would directly engage the public, academia, and industry.

The agency has published an RFI for an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge (UAS AOC or Challenge) focused on finding innovative solutions to the problems surrounding the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). The approach being considered would require competitors to maintain safe separation from other air traffic while operating their UAS in congested airspace, under a variety of scenarios. This will be accomplished through the use of sense and avoid technologies, as envisioned in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

NASA is planning this Challenge in collaboration with the FAA and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), with NASA providing the prize purse. The purpose of the Request For Information (RFI) is threefold:

  • Determine the UAS community's level of interest in competing in this Challenge.
  • Gather feedback on the draft rules that are being released in association with this RFI
  • Identify potential partners interested in providing a venue for the flight competition, and assisting NASA in managing and executing this Challenge which may include qualification of potential competitors.

A set of draft rules has been developed for this Challenge to give potential competitors and partners more insight into the scope and technical sophistication of the contest. NASA says the RFI is for informational purposes only and the Government will not pay for the information received. This RFI is not to be construed as a commitment by the government to enter into any agreement or other obligation or to conduct a UAS Airspace Operations Challenge.

The purse for the Level 1 Competition (L1C) is planned to be $500,000. Up to 20% of the Level 1 prize purse may be used to reward competitors for successful completion of the Qualification Round. The Level 2 Competition, which would be conducted approximately one year after successful completion of the L1C, is planned to have a prize purse of $1 million. Prizes will be offered to entries that meet specific requirements detailed in the final rules should a challenge be announced.



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