MITRE Challenge UAS


The use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), known also as drones, within the United States is growing quickly as costs drop and interest rises. Government, industry, and hobbyists are finding many ways to use these small aircraft. However, we’re also seeing unauthorized uses—resulting in drones that potentially threaten the safety of aircraft in the national airspace and create security concerns by operating near sensitive locations. The potential for nefarious use of this technology is unsettling and has become a major safety and security concern for multiple Federal agencies.

While counter-UAS technologies exist today, they are predominantly focused on large UAS and military scenarios. MITRE is working with multiple Federal agencies to help them understand the safety and security issues presented by small UAS and potential mitigations. One way to solicit solutions from a wide range of innovators from industry, academia, and other organizations is through a "challenge." MITRE believes, as does the Federal Government, that challenges and prize competitions are a creative approach to identifying and nurturing diverse potential solutions to a critical national problem.

The MITRE Challenge is looking for solutions to detect and safely interdict small UAS (weighing less than 5 lbs.) that pose a potential safety or security threat in urban areas.

  • Have you got a creative solution that will improve safety and security in U.S. airspace?
  • Would you like to prove that your solution is the best and be rewarded for your ideas?

Learn more about why MITRE is running the Challenge--and why you should take part!

Take the challenge!

The MITRE Countering UAS Challenge provides participants multiple benefits:

  • The opportunity to describe and potentially demonstrate your system to multiple federal agencies.
  • A no-cost technical assessment of your system against real-world criteria.
  • A chance to win prizes up to $100,000.

MITRE’s challenge enables you to apply your ingenuity to a growing national security concern. Step up to the challenge!

Challenge Details

To date, much of the government's research on counter-UAS technologies has focused on military force-protection scenarios. These technologies and interdiction methods are not necessarily appropriate for small UAS operating within the civil airspace of the United States. In our Challenge we are looking for systems that are:

  • Aligned with domestic safety and legal requirements, allowing deployment in a populated, U.S. domestic environment, with consideration of public safety and applicable laws and regulations.
  • Affordable, enabling potentially large-scale deployment to protect a wide variety of interests, from critical infrastructure to sensitive security locations.
  • Technologically scalable, allowing for protection against multiple simultaneous aircraft and those aircraft designed to defeat interdiction.
  • Innovative, offering unique ideas and/or additional value, such as the ability to identify the operator of a threatening aircraft.

The MITRE Countering UAS Challenge is seeking to identify solutions that are specifically able to: 1) detect small UAS during flight and determine which are threats based on a geographic location and flight trajectory, and 2) interdict small UAS that are perceived as threats by forcing them to be recovered in a safe area with any payload still intact. 

The challenge will consist of two phases:

  • Phase 1: Paper Evaluation. Interested participants must submit a white paper outlining their approach and a Participant Agreement. White papers and signed Participant Agreements are due by February 7, 2016. A panel of domain and technical experts from MITRE and U.S. Federal Agencies will review the papers and MITRE will select a subset to continue to phase 2. MITRE will inform these participants of their selection in May.
  • Phase 2: Live Flight Evaluations. MITRE will host a live flight assessment of systems in the Fall of 2016 and determine the Challenge winners. Scoring will be based on a number of operationally relevant criteria. Details on the criteria for the flight assessment will be provided to those selected to participate in Phase 2.

MITRE is offering a total prize package of $100,000 as a part of this challenge. The best end-to-end system will win $60,000; $20,000 will be awarded to the best detection system and $20,000 to the best interdiction system. (It is possible for a single participant to win all three prizes.) MITRE may award additional non-monetary prizes to recognize especially creative or novel approaches worthy of attention.

Phase 2 participants will also be invited to a technical exchange event with Federal officials. At this event they will be able discuss their systems and receive feedback on system capabilities. This will give participants a better understanding of the government's goals and concerns within the counter UAS space. This event will be a unique opportunity for challenge participants to interact with Federal officials who are actively managing activities in this field.

Challenge Webinar

(Video) On December 2, 2015, MITRE hosted a webinar about the Challenge, which provides additional information for potential participants.