The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced 17 qualified teams for the Subterranean (SubT) Challenge Urban Circuit that seeks to better equip warfighters and first responders to explore uncharted and dangerous underground environments.

A total of 11 teams will compete in the ‘Systems’ competition, which will take place at Satsop Business Park in Elma, Washington from 18 to 27 February.

Eight teams will participate in the ‘Virtual’ competition, which is set to run from 23 to 30 January, while two teams will compete in both the ‘Virtual’ and ‘Systems’ events.

As part of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, warfighters and first responders will be equipped to explore human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground, and natural cave networks.

The SubT Challenge Systems and ‘Virtual’ competitions will create a community of multidisciplinary teams from various fields to adopt breakthrough technologies in autonomy, perception, networking, and mobility for underground environments.

The Tunnel Circuit took place in August last year, while the Cave Circuit is planned for August this year.

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DARPA is targeting a ‘Final Event’ incorporating all three underground environments for August 2021.

In order to compete in the ‘Systems’ competition, each team is required to demonstrate baseline performance capabilities and suitable safety measures.

These teams will deploy autonomous ground and aerial systems to attempt to accurately identify and map as many artefacts as possible accurately along two competition courses.

The solutions of qualified ‘Virtual’ competitors can be submitted through the SubT Virtual Portal during the submission window.

Each team can select from a repository of robot models and a variety of sensors and assemble an eSports style solution to map, navigate, and search dark, dangerous underground environments.

Last October, DARPA completed a preliminary design review of a two-stage tactical missile system.