Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SPRINGFIELD, OH.—Teams of aerospace researchers across the country are signing up to compete for $500,000 in prize money by demonstrating the ability to fly unmanned aircraft through an airspace obstacle course. Registration began two months ago for the NASA 2014 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Airspace Operations Challenge, coordinated by Development Projects Inc. (DPI) of Dayton, Ohio. Since then, numerous teams from industry and academia have signed up to demonstrate their capabilities and to compete in the first phase scheduled for April 2014. Registrations for the first phase will run through March 31, 2014.

The competition is hosted by the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex and will take place at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center near Edinburgh, Indiana. Competitors will demonstrate their ability to safely operate in airspace shared by cooperative air traffic. The competition is focused on developing and demonstrating key technologies needed for autonomous flight of unmanned aircraft systems, particularly their ability to sense and avoid other air traffic. Advances in autonomous systems technologies will one day enable robotic aircraft to operate safely in the same airspace as piloted aircraft. Capability for mature sense and avoid technology, also known as SAA, is key to successfully meeting Phase 1 competition objectives. Competitors will also demonstrate basic airmanship and air vehicle capabilities through a series of ground and flight events intended to measure key performance capabilities, requiring a high level of robustness.

Other partners, including the Dayton Development Coalition and the National Center for Complex Operations (NCCO), are working together with NASA to showcase innovations supporting the successful integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). Once Phase 1 objectives are met, a second phase of the competition will follow one year later and is expected to award up to $1 million in additional prize money.

NASA's Centennial Challenges seek unconventional solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. Competitors have included private companies, student groups and independent inventors working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike contracts or grants, prizes are awarded only after solutions are successfully demonstrated.

For more information, including how to register a team for the 2014 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge, visit: