section icon 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.

Playhead Button

section icon 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.

section icon 1 challenge, 2 competitions, 3 subdomains

Teams can compete in one or both of two complementary research tracks: the Systems Competition, and/or the Virtual Competition. Teams in both competitions will compete in three circuit events that will explore the difficulties of operating in specific underground environments.

systems competition icon

Systems Competition

Teams have developed and demonstrated physical systems competing in live competitions on physical, representative subterranean courses, and focused on advancing and evaluating novel physical solutions in realistic field environments.

virtual competition icon

Virtual Competition

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


Tunnel Systems

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

Urban Underground

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

Cave Networks

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

prize section icon Prizes

Teams in the Systems Competition will compete for a $2 million top prize in the Systems Competition Final Event. Teams in the Virtual Competition will compete for a $750K top prize in the Virtual Competition Final Event.

section icon 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 Competition 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 icon Tunnel Competition icon Urban Competition icon Cave Competition icon Final Event icon
Systems Competition SEP, 2018 AUG 15-22, 2019 FEB 18-27, 2020 -- SEP 21- 24, 2021
Virtual Competition SEP 2018 OCT 30, 2019 FEB 27, 2020 NOV 19, 2020 SEP 21-24, 2021

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