TurboTas has posted before on the progress of the TAM team to cross the Atlantic with a UAV. As if that were not enough of a challange, the US DARPA have raised the bar with a challenge to cross 300 miles of the Mojave desert with an Unmanned Ground Vehicle.
Pretty easy to see that this is a cheap development trick for the US Government, but the challenge still looks really exciting.
UGV’s have a brand new set of problems to solve that makes the CFIT problem for UAVs look pretty simple to fix.
The challenge itself will be run in mid March 2004, The vehicles will all set off together and have 10 hours to make their way from L.A. to Las Vegas along a tightly determined route.
The rules are pretty tough and call for numerous software and sensor technologies to sucessfully negotiate the waypoints: GPS alone will not be enough.
As if route navigation was not tough enough, there will be numerous obstacles to negotiate. Examples given are bridges and underpasses, but there is also mention of moving obstacles.
Don’t get ideas that you can enter though: entries had to be technically vetted by October 2003.
The competition looks set to hot up now. Many of the teams have tested their vehicles and are now looking at fine tuning. Interestingly, the spectrum of teams is very wide: the likes of Lockheed are competing next to teams of enthusiastic amateurs and Colleges.
For the big corporates, the $1M prize is not the ultimate goal, but more the lucrative contract that may follow a win. The million dollars means much more to the smaller teams.
Follow the progress of the competition here