COMPETITION BASICS

OVERVIEW

BASIC CHALLENGE


The Safeguard with Autonomous Navigation Demonstration (SAND) Challenge will be an opportunity for small businesses to compete in an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle competition. The challenge will address some of the safety critical risks associated with flying UAVs in the National Airspace system (NAS): 1) flight outside of approved airspace and 2) unsafe Proximity to people or property.

Beyond visual line of sight operations (BVLOS) is the holy grail of UAV operations. The stretch goal of the SAND challenge is to demonstrate that UAVs integrated with NASA Langley’s patented geo-fencing technology, Safeguard, can operate safely beyond visual line of sight in the NAS. NASA Langley’s patented Safeguard technology is designed to assuredly address the aforementioned safety critical risks and will fly onboard the competitor’s vehicle while navigating the competition course. Safeguard is NASA’s patented aviation quality geo-fencing technology. Safeguard is a verified and validated independent system that uses real-time data about the position of a UAV to determine its proximity to a set of pre-defined and pre-loaded lateral boundaries and an altitude limit.

The SAND Challenge will demonstrate the successful integration of the NASA Safeguard technology in the context of a post-natural disaster scenario amidst critical infrastructure. The SAND Challenge will be held in May of 2020 in Hampton, Virginia. The challenge will follow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Regulation Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations provided in the Resource tab of the Competition Basics page on the SAND2020 Website.

The primary objectives of the SAND Challenge are:

  1. To demonstrate safe operations of autonomous UAVs amidst critical infrastructure in a simulated post-natural disaster scenario using NASA Langley’s Safeguard Technology to stakeholders, the emerging UAV industry, and the public.
  2. To collect post competition data from Safeguard for further analysis that may inspire new regulatory policies that support expanded use of commercial UAV systems.
  3. To inform regulatory stakeholders including federal, state, and local governments on the potential operational benefits of integrating NASA Langley’s Safeguard Technology to UAVs to aid first responders in natural disasters events.
  4. To engage the emerging UAV operator market to the value proposition of NASA Langley’s Safeguard Technology and its potential use cases for commercialization and licensing.

The small business competitors will develop their own autonomous logic implemented on their drones to provide surveillance and identification of key targets in a simulated post-natural disaster scene. A notional description of the SAND Competition Course is posted in the Resource Section of the Competition Basics page on the SAND 2020 website. The NASA Langley patented Safeguard technology will be flown as a stand-alone payload mounted on the drone. Details on the integration of the Safeguard technology can be found in SMART-04-002 Interface Control Document for Safeguard Units in the Resource tab of the Competition Basics page on the SAND2020 Website.


OVERVIEW & CONTEXT


NASA’s Technology Transfer Program, managed by the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), ensures that technologies developed for missions in aeronautics and space exploration and discovery are broadly available to the public, maximizing the benefit to the Nation. At NASA Langley, the Strategic Technology Partnerships program, in the Office of Strategic Analysis, Communications, and Business (OSACB), through STMD, is the sponsor of this work.

The SAND Challenge is a pathfinder approach to engaging small businesses early in the commercialization process to accelerate technology adoption. Through participation in the SAND Challenge, small businesses and regulatory stakeholders (city, state and federal) will see the potential capability of BVLOS operations through the integration of Safeguard on UAVs.


SAFEGUARD TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION AND CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS


Competitors will be given the boundary conditions of the geo-spatial area in which the competition will be held in Hampton, Virginia as well as the geometric dimensions of ‘objects’ that are representative of post natural disaster critical infrastructure ‘no fly zones’ within the competition course.

During flight, the Safeguard System uses the vehicle position, velocity, and estimates of associated errors, to determine if the vehicle is within the defined Stay-In boundary and outside any and all defined Stay-Out boundaries. The system will also continuously track and predict whether any boundaries will be violated based on thresholds set by the operator as well as the vehicle’s ballistic trajectory (in the case of sudden power loss). The Safeguard technology transmits a signal to the vehicle’s autopilot to take action upon breach of a warning zone or stay out zone. Upon a breach of a geo-fenced Warning Zone, the drone’s autopilot will initiate correction to the flight path to leave the area. Upon a stay out zone breach, the vehicle is terminated from the competition and the vehicle’s autopilot must initiate an autoland assuring that the UAV complies with regulatory property protection and safety requirements.

NASA will be providing a ballasted, 3D-printed Safeguard Box (without the Safeguard technology) with mounting hardware for integration on the competition drone upon participant selection.

NASA will evaluate and score the drones’ performance with respect to Safeguard integration and the drone’s ability to maneuver away from the Safeguard warning zone notifications as well as avoidance of breaching the stay out zones. Bonus points will be awarded for autonomous surveillance operations in support of identifying the post-natural disaster objects in an efficient manner. Points accumulated prior to breaching the Safeguard geo-fenced Do Not Enter Zone will count towards the total points earned in the competition. Course completion time will be the tie-breaker.

All data generated during the SAND Drone Challenge shall be the property of NASA and may be publicly released in NASA’s sole discretion. Subject to NASA’s data release processes and approvals, NASA will use reasonable efforts to provide to Participant, upon request, the GPS-location data, boundary violation data, and velocity flight path data tracked by Safeguard for Participant’s vehicle.

DRONE ELIGIBILITY & OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS

DRONE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS


The following are the physical requirements and operational constraints that must be demonstrated in order to qualify as a competitor in the SAND Challenge:

  • Vehicle must be compliant with the FAA's Part 107 regulations.
  • Vehicle must be capable of Vertical Take Off and Landing and cannot be fixed wing.
  • General aircraft restrictions (size, weight, and power source):
    • No vehicle size requirement
    • Max Weight: 55 lbs.
      • To include weight of Safeguard and weight of external battery (NASA to provide weight estimate)
      • Drone will be weighed at check-in on the day of the competition
    • Electric power is preferred; however, other methods can be petitioned for exemption through the application process.
    • Cannot be tethered
  • Pixhawk is the preferred and recommended autopilot hardware; however, other autopilot hardware can be petitioned for exemption through the application process.
  • In the event of loss of the command and control link greater than one second, the vehicle must return to base (RTB)/return to launch (RTL).
  • All frequency communication must comply with FCC rules and regulations.
    • Acceptable frequencies include:
      • 902 MHZ to 928 MHz
      • 862 MHz to 872 MHz
      • 5.8 GHz Spectrum
      • 2.4 GHz Spectrum
  • Company provided Ground Control Station
    • Use of ground based sensors such as wind monitors and trackers are allowed
    • Ground station must display GPS location (latitude, longitude, and altitude) on a map display; heading, speed, and battery health
  • All vehicles must be capable of manual human intervention at all times to take control and operate the vehicle at the command of the NASA Range Safety Officer.
  • Autonomous Operations:
    • Maximum points given to full autonomous operations - no human interaction unless safety problem occurs.
  • Eligible participants and their qualified drones must submit a 5-minute video of the competition drone must be submitted by March 1, 2020 that demonstrates autonomous flight with the following criteria:
    • Present your vehicle on video
    • Demonstrate level flight
    • Demonstrate the ability to stop on command
    • Demonstrate feasibility to fly autonomously
    • Demonstrate the ability to engage the Autoland command and return to base
    • Demonstrate Autoland command integration with the simulated NASA Safeguard signal
    • Provide a copy of flight path and corresponding .tlog
    • Show sensor suite capability

Site Visit to Competitor’s Location: Upon submittal and review of the competition drone video, a NASA team will arrange for a site visit to the competitor’s location to validate safeguard technology integration with the applicant’s drone. NASA will replace the ballasted, 3D-printed Safeguard Box with an executable Safeguard Box for integration with the competition drone's autopilot.

  • Demonstration of the following capabilities at the competitor’s location include:
    • The Competition Drone’s autopilot receives the transmission signal from Safeguard.
    • The Competition Drone’s autopilot takes action upon breach of a designated geo-fenced warning zone or stay out zone.
    • Upon a breach of a designated geo-fenced Warning Zone, the drone’s autopilot will initiate correction to the flight path to leave the area.
    • Upon a designated stay out zone breach, the drone’s autopilot must initiate an Autoland.

DRONE OPERATIONAL RESTRICTIONS


  • Maximum Operational Altitude (during Competition): 50 ft. above ground level
  • Maximum Operational Speed (during Competition): 30 ft./second (approximately 20 mph/18 knots)
  • Drone should be capable of at least 15 minutes of flight.
  • Drone's flight control system shall receive the discrete signal from the Safeguard technology upon breaching a geo-fenced Warning Zone and the drone’s autopilot will initiate correction to the flight path to leave the area.
  • Drone's Autoland command must be engaged upon receiving Safeguard's signal indicating breach of the Do Not Enter Zone.
  • Breach of a Safeguard geo-fenced Do Not Enter Zone will result in the elimination from the remainder of the competition course.

DRONE DOCUMENTATION REQUIREMENTS


The following documentation must be provided as proof of compliance to FAA Part 107 and must be submitted as part of the Participant Application:

  • Proof of ownership/purchase by the small business of the drone to be flown in the competition
  • Proof of FAA registration of the drone
  • Drone manufacturer, model number, and specifications
  • Sensor specifications (type, manufacturer, capability) already available on the drone, and planned acquisition of additional sensors to meet competition objectives
  • Identification of frequencies used (command and control, datalink, etc.)
  • Identification of GPS sensor (manufacturer and model)
  • The designated Remote/Safety Pilot must provide a copy of their Remote Pilot Part 107 license

PRE-FLIGHT SAFETY INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS OF COMPETITION TEAM AND DRONE


Prior to competition, teams will be sent a pre-flight safety inspection checklist that will be used by the NASA Safety Officer. Each team’s drone must pass the following pre-flight safety inspection requirements in order to qualify on the date of the SAND competition:

  • Verify drone can be operated in a safe manner with trained and qualified personnel (Hover Test)
  • Verify drone can demonstrate approved failsafe measures prior to entering the competition field
  • Four person team has attended the mandatory safety briefing prior to first flight
  • Demonstrate ability of drone to follow a well-defined process for procession to flight line prior to entering the competition field
  • A thorough inspection of required drone's safety mechanisms prior to being allowed on the flight line
  • Verify acquisition and transmission of .tlog data
  • Complete of visual inspection of drone by NASA personnel, including Safeguard box and sensors
  • Verify drone weight
  • Inspect pilot qualifications, pilot log, and drone log book

During inspection, a Safety Officer will verify integrity of the drone’s airframe against the competition safety check list and appropriate mounting of the Safeguard box to the participant drone. Verification of executable autoland command must be demonstrated by the competition drone upon transmission of a simulated Safeguard zone violation signal as part of the pre-flight inspection. Competition drones will not be allowed to proceed to the flight line without a successful preflight inspection conducted by NASA personnel.

NASA’s Safety Officer will issue appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to competitors on the day of competition that shall be used on the flight line or whenever within 10 ft. of an energized drone.

PARTICIPANT ELIGIBILITY

PARTICIPANT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS


The SAND Challenge welcomes applications from small business teams that are duly licensed and incorporated in the United States and are in good standing. The following restrictions apply.

In order for a company to qualify to participate in the SAND Challenge, the following requirements must be satisfied:

  • Provide documentation denoting the participant is a Small Business per the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) size standards, 13 CFR 121.201. See Table of Small Business Size Standards North American Industry Classification System Code in the Resource tab of the Competition Basics page on the SAND2020 Website.
  • Provide a copy of the Business’ certificate of incorporation documenting the small business is incorporated and licensed to do business in one of the 50 states of the United States.
  • A corporate officer with authority must certify the participant business will maintain, throughout the term of the SAND Challenge, insurance covering claims for bodily injury, personal injury, death, property damage, or other loss or damages arising from any activities conducted at the SAND Challenge at such limits and upon such terms as are acceptable to NASA in its reasonable discretion, and shall provide NASA acceptable evidence of such insurance.
  • A corporate officer with authority executes a liability waiver and indemnification agreement with NASA.
  • A corporate officer with authority executes an intellectual property agreement and media release agreement with NASA.
  • The Participant must submit a five-page white paper that describes the business implementation plan for potential uses of NASA’s Safeguard Technology. Specifically:
    • Provide a brief description of the nature and type of your business.
      • Describe the technical capabilities of your product.
      • Give an example of how your company has implemented successful navigation.
    • Provide an overview of your company’s and team members’ experience with UAVs.
    • Why do you want to participate?
    • What are the potential use cases of Safeguard that meet your business strategy?
      • Product: Describe the product/services that will use the technology.
      • Market: Describe the markets and applications that will use the above described products/services.
      • Market Size: Estimate the expected annual revenue to be generated from the above described products/services.
  • The Participant must identify a minimum of two employees, a Remote/Safety Pilot and a Team Captain, with a maximum of four employees to compete on the days of the SAND Competition. These team members must provide proof of being an employee of the small business, and U.S. citizenship (participants may be Lawful Permanent Residents) as part of the application process. One of the team members must be certified as a FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot (e.g. Safety Pilot) and one must be identified as the Captain of the team. On a two-person competition team, the Captain has an additional responsibility of being an observer providing visual cues to the Remote/Safety Pilot.
    • Proof of U.S. Citizenship: provide copy of birth certificate or U.S. Passport; or proof of Lawful Permanent Residency (copy of green card)
    • Proof of Employment: Small Business Company Badge or Document with Identification Number and Photograph
  • The designated Safety Pilot must provide the following documents that demonstrate FAA Part 107 compliance as part of the application:
    • A copy of their Remote Pilot Airman Certificate with a small UAS rating
      • Must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate, this certification can be obtained in one of two ways:
          1. Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
          2. If the Safety Pilot already has a Part 61 pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, they must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and provide proof that the Safety Pilot has taken a small UAS online training course provided by the FAA.
  • Must provide the number of hours flown as a UAS Pilot on all UAVs as well as on the drone to be flown in the SAND competition as part of the application and bring with them their UAS Pilot log on the SAND Competition date. A participant will be disqualified if a valid UAS Pilot log is not presented as part of the SAND Competition Registration.
  • The Captain of the team shall be responsible for the actions of the team members and for the team’s compliance with the competition rules, including competition and prize eligibility rules. The Captain shall be the designated person for all deliverable submissions and communications between team and competition committee as part of the SAND Challenge event.
  • A minimum of two members are required to field a competition team, a captain and a Remote /Safety Pilot. NOTE that a maximum of four members of the competition team are allowed on the flight line during the SAND Challenge event. Please identify roles and responsibilities of each member of the team as part of the application process.
PARTICIPANT & DRONE SELECTION

PARTICIPANT AND DRONE SELECTION PROCESS


On the SAND2020 Website, the required deliverables and deadlines are specified in the Requirements and Forms Page. The process for selection is a two-step process. The first is what is required to qualify as a participant for the SAND2020 Challenge and the second is what is required of the competition drone to be eligible and qualified to compete. An overview of the selection process for participant and drones as well as competition drone selection to compete is as follows:

  • November 30, 2019: Participant Application Submitted
    • Upon receipt of all documents and forms per the SAND2020 Requirements and Forms Page, except for the video and .tlog, a SAND2020 Selection Panel will be convened to evaluate the qualifications, quality and relevance to the SAND Challenge Competition.
    • Evaluation Process will take approximately one month.
      • The Selection Committee may reach out to applicants to ask clarifying questions.
      • A slate of qualified participants with competition drones that meet the FAA Part 107 qualifications and SAND2020 Challenge drone requirements will be determined.
  • January 6, 2020: Participant Selection Notification
    • All applicants will receive a notification whether they qualify and have been selected to compete at the SAND challenge or not.
    • Selected Participants will then be required to submit a video of their competition drone by March 1, 2020 per the requirements specified on the Competition Basics page, Section Drone Eligibility Requirements.
    • Non-selected applicants can request a debrief as to why they were not selected to compete at the SAND2020 Challenge.
  • March 1, 2020: Drone Eligibility: Part 1: Video and .tlog Submission
    • Qualified competition drones must demonstrate successful integration of the NASA Safeguard technology and autonomous flight capability in order to be selected to compete at the SAND2020 Challenge.
    • Selected Participants must submit a one-minute video of their competition drone demonstrating autonomous flight with the following criteria:
      • Present your vehicle on video
      • Demonstrate level flight
      • Demonstrate the ability to stop on command
      • Demonstrate feasibility to fly autonomously
      • Demonstrate the ability to engage the Autoland command and return to base
      • Demonstrate Autoland command integration with the simulated NASA Safeguard signal
      • Provide a copy of competition drone flight path and corresponding .tlog shown in the video
      • Show sensor suite capability
    • Competition Drone Video Evaluation
      • An evaluation of the submitted video will be conducted and a determination will be made as to whether the proposed competition drone successfully demonstrated the criteria specified above.
      • Competition Drones that satisfy the specified criteria will continue to be evaluated for Competition Selection.
      • A NASA team will arrange for a site visit to the competitor’s location to validate safeguard technology integration with the applicant’s drone.
      • A notification will be sent to those participants whose competition drones do not satisfy the specified criteria and thus cannot compete at the SAND2020 Challenge.
  • March-April: Drone Selection: Part 2: Site Visit to the Competitor’s Location
    • A NASA team will arrange to visit the Competitor’s location to integrate the Safeguard technology with the competition drone’s autopilot and demonstrate autonomous flight with an integrated Safeguard system.
    • The competition drone will demonstrate the following capabilities:
      • The Competition Drone’s autopilot receives the transmission signal from Safeguard
      • The Competition Drone’s autopilot takes action upon breach of a designated geo-fenced warning zone or stay out zone.
      • Upon a breach of a designated geo-fenced Warning Zone, the drone’s autopilot will initiate correction to the flight path to leave the area.
      • Upon a designated stay out zone breach, the drone’s autopilot must initiate an Autoland.
    • Safeguard Integration and Autonomous Flight Evaluation
      • An evaluation by the NASA team will be conducted and a determination will be made as to whether the competition drone successfully demonstrated the capabilities specified above.
      • Competition Drones that successfully demonstrate autonomous flight with an integrated Safeguard System are eligible to compete at the SAND2020 Challenge to be held in Hampton, VA in the May 2020 timeframe.
      • A notification will be sent to those participants whose competition drones do not demonstrate autonomous flight with an integrated Safeguard System and thus cannot compete at the SAND2020 Challenge.
OBJECTIVES & SCORING

PRELIMINARY SAND COMPETITION OBJECTIVES & SCORING GUIDELINES


The Sand Competition will evaluate the integration of Safeguard which will be measured by the drone’s ability to maneuver the competition course while minimizing warning zone breaches and avoiding ‘do not enter’ zone violations. Bonus points can be earned for providing a GPS-derived field survey map representative of the competition course and select bonus objects representative of those encountered in the aftermath of a natural disaster as the SAND competition course is traversed.

  • Two categories of objectives will be scored:
    • Drone Performance traversing the Competition
    • Completion of Competition Course Objectives
      • will include stretch objectives that can earn bonus points
  • Drone Performance Objectives:
    • Safeguard Boundary Violations (Warning Zones) shall trigger a change in route for the drone.
    • Safeguard Do Not Enter Zone Breach will result in elimination from the competition.
    • Precision Landing to designated target (Return to Base) will receive bonus points if conducted autonomously and a penalty if manual control is required.
    • Time to complete competition course (T-minus max allowable) will be the tie-breaker if conducted without incurring Safeguard boundary penalties.
  • Competition Course Objectives:
    • Field Survey:
      • Visual image(s) of entire field to survey obstacles for first responders.
      • Provide a record of the drone flight path
      • Bonus points can be earned for providing a GPS-derived field survey map representative of the competition course and object locations
RESOURCES
IMAGES