NASA hosts $500k UAS Airspace Operations Challenge

By Emily Aasand | August 08, 2014

Eight teams have registered for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge (UAS AOC), which is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenge Program. Phase one of the challenge is set to be held from September 10 to 17 at Atterbury Range near Edinburgh, Ind.

NASA’s Centennial Challenge Program is designed to enrich individual, academic, and private sector innovation to solve difficult problems important to NASA and the nation.

The challenge is broken down into two parts: phase one of the challenge focuses on aspects of safe airspace operations, robustness to system failures, and encourages competitors to begin developing critical skills needed for phase two. Skills that are needed to be demonstrated in phase one include:

  • Safe Airspace Operations:
    • Separation Assurance using ADS-B
    • 4 Dimension Trajectories
    • Ground Control Operations
    • Robustness to System Failures:
      • Lost Link
      • GPS Unavailable
      • GPS Unreliable
      • Preparation for Phase Two Competition:
        • Uncooperative Air Traffic Detection

According to the rules, in phase one, successful competing aircraft must be able to demonstrate safe operations in a complex air traffic environment within a confined region of the test airspace in the presence of cooperative and uncooperative unmanned aircraft. The aircraft must be able to detect and avoid cooperative aircraft by interpreting ADS-B transmissions and must maintain proper separation from cooperative aircraft at all times.

In order to compete, teams must have a pilot in command and a ground crew that can operate the aircraft using a ground control station located at the test site. All aircraft will be equipped with competition furnished GPS units, and prior to competing, teams must operate their aircraft in a hardware-in-the-loop simulation environment on the ground.

Phase one will have a $500,000 prize pool and a phase two competition will follow one year after the successful completion of phase one. Phase two is expected to have up to $1 million in additional prize money.