The DARPA SubTChallenge STIX event that took place in early April provided a shakeout opportunity for competitors in advance of the upcoming Tunnel Circuit in August.
The Tunnel Circuit is the first of three sub-domains that our team plus competitors will tackle in the Challenge.
During the STIX, teams were divided into three groups. Each group had one day to experiment with their various systems during multiple runs in the mine, followed by a second day in which each team attempted a one-hour mock, scored run.
Teams could earn points by accurately locating, identifying, and reporting artifacts placed within the tunnels. Artifacts included thermal manikins, backpacks, fire extinguishers, cell phones, and cordless drills – all inspired by objects an end user such as a warfighter or first responder might encounter.
The mine environment presented teams with low light, high dust, metal rails, and irregular terrain. The DARPA team added to the complexity with a theatrical smoke machine, which mimicked real smoke a warfighter or first responder could contend with in an emergency response scenario, for example.
“It was amazing to see the progression from day one into day two for each team as they explored the tunnels of the mine and began to understand just how complex and unknown these underground environments can be,” said Timothy Chung, program manager for the Subterranean Challenge in DARPA’s.
“It’s not just about testing whether there’s enough light or if robots can drive a few meters. It’s about how all that has to come together in a difficult environment and the teams are experiencing the challenge of integration in addition to technology development.”
Originally published by DARPA News on 29/04/2019.