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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the finals of the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Challenge will be held at the Louisville Mega Cavern in Louisville, Kentucky on September 21-23, 2021.
The DARPA SubT Challenge is designed to test the ability of autonomous robots to perceive, navigate, network, and move in a variety of GPS-denied environments, including human-made tunnel systems, urban undergrounds, and natural cave networks.
The finals will be the fourth and final stage of the SubT Challenge. Coordinated Robotics, a self-funded team led by Kevin Knoedler in Newbury Park, Calif., won a $250,000 prize at the recent Cave Circuit Virtual Competition. Coordinated Robotics won the Tunnel Circuit and was second in the virtual Urban Circuit. A CMU, OSU team won the first leg of the challenge.
The best performing team in the Systems Competition will be awarded a $2 million prize while the best performing team in the Virtual Competition will be awarded a $750,000 prize. The finals will include elements from all three subdomains — tunnel, urban, and cave.
The Louisville Mega Cavern is a former limestone mine that was founded in the 1930s. The cave stretches under parts of the Watterson Expressway and the Louisville Zoo. Due to its support structures, it is classified as a building. And at 4,000,000 square feet, it is the largest building in Kentucky.
“Whether it’s the systems courses that we are building inside the Mega Cavern, or the wildly varying virtual environments we’re designing in the SubT Virtual Testbed, I’m excited to see how all of the SubT Challenge competitors build on the knowledge they gained during the Circuit Events to be successful in the Final Event.” said Dr. Timothy Chung, program manager for the Subterranean Challenge in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
New teams are still eligible to qualify for the Systems and Virtual Competitions. In order to participate, teams must deploy autonomous robotic systems – either real or virtual – into the competition courses to map, navigate, and search for artifacts of interest. The locations of each artifact must be reported with an accuracy of at least five meters to score a point.
Chung was a recent guest on The Robot Report Podcast. He discussed the recently completed Virtual Cave Circuit of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, shared lessons learned in the various circuits, how DARPA created its simulated environments, and how the competitors used robots and drones. Chung also looked ahead to the finals and applications for these new technologies. You can listen to the interview below, starting at the 46:56 mark.