DARPA Subterranean Challenge
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Unearthing the Subterranean Environment

Subterranean Challenge

Revolutionize how we operate in the underground domain.

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The Problem

The Problem

Current technologies fail to provide persistent situational awareness of the diverse subterranean operating environments, including tunnels, urban underground, and cave networks.

The Challenge

The Challenge

Drive novel approaches and technologies to allow warfighters and first responders to rapidly map, navigate, and search dynamic underground environments.

The Prizes

The Prizes

Teams will compete for more than $5 million in prizes in the three circuit events and an integrated final course.



Teams can compete in one or both of the research competitions: the Systems Competition and/or the Virtual Competition.



Interested teams may register their intent to compete in either Systems or Virtual competitions here.

Revolutionize How We Operate In The Underground Domain

Complex underground settings present significant challenges for military and civilian first responders. The hazards vary drastically across domains that can degrade or change over time and are often too high-risk for personnel to enter.

The DARPA Subterranean or “SubT” Challenge seeks novel approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments during time-sensitive combat operations or disaster response scenarios.

Subterranean Cave Explorer
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Be Part of the Innovation

DARPA encourages participation from multidisciplinary teams from around the world to address the autonomy, perception, networking and mobility technologies necessary to map subsurface networks in unpredictable conditions. To attract a broader range of participants, the SubT Challenge includes both a physical Systems competition, as well as a software-only Virtual competition.


Teams can compete in one or both of two complementary research tracks: the Systems track, and/or the Virtual track.

Systems Track

Systems Track

Teams will develop and demonstrate physical systems to compete in live competitions on physical, representative subterranean courses, and focus on advancing and evaluating novel physical solutions in realistic field environments.

Virtual Track


Teams will develop software and algorithms using virtual models of systems, environments, and terrain to compete in simulation-based events, and explore larger-scale runs in simulated environments that explore significantly expanded scenario sizes and durations.

Compete in three subdomains

Teams in both tracks will compete in three circuit events that will explore the difficulties of operating in specific underground environments.

Tunnel Circuit

Tunnel Systems

Tunnels can extend many kilometers in length with constrained passages, vertical shafts and multiple levels.

Urban Circuit

Urban Underground

Urban underground environments can have complex layouts with multiple stories and span several city blocks.

Urban Circuit

Cave Networks

Natural cave networks often have irregular geological structures, with both constrained passages and large caverns.


Teams in the Systems track will compete for up to $2 million in the Systems Final event, with additional prizes available for self-funded teams in each of the Systems Circuit events. Teams in the Virtual track will compete for up to $1.5 million in the Virtual Final event, with additional prizes for self-funded teams in each of the Virtual Circuit events.

Challenge Schedule

Teams will compete in three preliminary circuit events and a final integrated challenge course pursuing high-risk and high-reward approaches. The final event, planned for 2021, will put teams to the test with courses that incorporate diverse challenges from all three environments.

Virtual track teams will compete remotely via online submissions for each circuit event. The final event for Virtual competitors will be co-located and concurrent with the Systems final event.

Challenge Competitors Day

September 2018

Tunnel Circuit

August 15-22 2019

Urban Circuit

February 2020

Cave Circuit

August 2020

Final Event

August 2021


Virtual Teams Trek through Simulated Hazards in SubT Challenge Tunnel Event

Virtual Competition is active through August 1, 2019; registration open for Tunnel Circuit media day.


DARPA Identifies Teams Qualified to Compete in First Scored Event of SubT Challenge

Eleven Systems teams and five Virtual teams have qualified to compete in the Subterranean Challenge Tunnel Circuit; additional teams may qualify for Virtual competition through June 10.


With Insights from Integration Exercise, SubT Challenge Competitors Prepare for Tunnel Circuit

Challenge fosters new technologies for warfighters and first responders to map, navigate, and search underground environments.

"The relationship between warfare and terrain demands the faculty of quickly and accurately grasping the topography of any area.”
- Clausewitz, On War