NIST Prize Challenge Focuses on Drone Technology for Search and Rescue Missions

July 13, 2021
Advanced technologies could make drones better lifesavers.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched a new series of three competitions to advance the use of drones in search and rescue (SAR) operations. It is called the First Responder UAS Triple Challenge.

The competitions include The FastFind: UAS Search Optimized Challenge, which focuses on SAR using optical sensors and data analysis to improve image detection and location; the LifeLink: UAS Data Relay Challenge, which centers on supporting continuous delivery of broadband data in degraded cellular areas; and the Shields Up! Securing UAS Navigation and Control Challenge, which asks participants to identify and demonstrate cybersecurity threats and countermeasures that prevent navigation and control of drones.

More than $700,000 in prizes will be awarded throughout the three competitions. Prize recipients will be determined by a panel of judges assisted by a team of subject matter experts in each stage of the competitions. The Triple Challenge is being hosted by NIST’s PSCR Division and managed by Kansas State University and Mississippi State University

“Our goal at NIST is to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced wireless communications for the public safety community,” says Dereck Orr, PSCR division chief. “These competitions help us find problem solvers from around the world to help with this important research.”

“This project has been a long time in the making for our team at Kansas State,” says Kurt Barnhart, the leader of the Kansas State University team. “We are privileged to partner with NIST in its  ongoing effort to push innovative technologies for first responders to use as they try to help when it is needed most. We’re also excited to be working jointly with the Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Lab to develop and deliver three competitions.”

To learn about eligibility requirements, visit For additional information and to register, visit

NIST will accept contest entries beginning Aug. 2, 2021, with multiple stages running through June 2022.

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