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DOD, Israel Host Indoor Autonomous Maneuver Technologies Challenge

Aug. 11, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Department, the Israel Defense Ministry and the Merage Institute are holding a Mobile Standoff Autonomous Indoor Capabilities, or MoSAIC, challenge to advance innovative technological solutions for remote, autonomous indoor maneuver.

The MoSAIC challenge is divided into five mini-challenges, three of them virtual challenges and two of them physical challenges that include: indoor navigation, room mapping, human/object tagging, tactical robotic systems, and human presence detection, which is also known as through-wall imaging. 

A graphic shows a target superimposed on an eye.
Digital Target
A person looks up while the digital image of a target is superimposed on his eye.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Army
VIRIN: 210608-O-D0439-001

Prizes will be awarded to winners and runners up in each of the categories. The MoSAIC challenge application process, which began June 24 and runs until Sept. 23, will award cash and other prizes totaling $600,000 to startups and innovators worldwide who produce the best solutions.

The MoSAIC challenge is part of a memorandum of agreement between the U.S. DOD's Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate, or IWTSD, and IMOD's Directorate of Defense Research and Engineering, or DDR&D. It's important to note that IWTSD is part of the Assistant Secretary of Defense and Low-Intensity Conflict organization.

"The U.S. Defense Department realized many years ago that groundbreaking innovations were happening outside the government laboratories and traditional prime contractors," said Adam Tarsi, international program manager for IWTSD. 

An unmanned aerial vehicle.
Quadrotor Biplane
The Common Research Configuration Research Quadrotor Biplane autonomously transitions between hover and forward flight to capitalize on the strengths of both flight modes. It is shown here at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Dec. 8, 2020.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Army
VIRIN: 201208-O-D0439-001A

"We are sponsoring the MoSAIC challenge, together with our IMOD/DDR&D partners, to ensure we are illuminating all relevant technologies that provide our military and law enforcement tactical operators with every possible technological advantage when operating in challenging and high-risk indoor environments. We are leveraging the Merage Institute's vast network to broaden the pool of solvers and reward demonstrated successes in order to expedite the delivery of capabilities to our operational end users," he said.

Tarsi said he expects to see some innovative use of artificial intelligence, small multi-rotor drones and tactical ground vehicles that can successfully negotiate complex obstacles as might be found in tunnels or collapsed structures.

DOD has successfully held similar challenges in the last few years, with some of the experimental devices, hardware and software incorporated into systems that now or in the future will aid the warfighters with overcoming capability gaps, he said.

At this year's challenge, Tarsi said that DOD would likely be interested in many of the projects that don't ultimately receive prizes and that there could be a productive collaboration between those innovators and the department.

Ground vehicle appears to walk.
Ground Vehicle
An unmanned ground vehicle is tested at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 10, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price
VIRIN: 201110-F-DB615-1211C

Israeli Army Lt. Col. Ryan Gity, head of Future Autonomous Systems, Program Executive Office, said: "The Israel Ministry of Defense is constantly seeking cutting edge technologies to bring operational advantage to the field. For the last two years, the DDR&D focused its efforts on developing autonomous robotic technologies for indoor and outdoor missions. Realizing that the progress of development of technological solutions for indoor robotics is much more mature in the non-military industries we decided, together with the U.S. DOD/IWTSD and with the help of the Israel Defense Force's Ground Forces Technological Division, to develop a challenge that will bring us the technologies we have never seen before. With the combination of these five challenges under MoSAIC, both governments will be able to develop the next generation of indoor robotics."

Paul Merage, founder and CEO of the Merage Institute said: "The MoSAIC Challenge is a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs, researchers and companies to present the technology they develop to the U.S. and Israeli governments, to create international collaborations, and to identify new opportunities in a growing demand for autonomous indoor technologies. The Merage Institute is happy to harness its capabilities as a leading center for the development of entrepreneurs and assistance to Israeli startups in the process of partnering with the American market."

The physical testbed of the challenge is planned to take place in the spring of 2022 in the Negev Desert town of Yeruham, Israel. 

Marines work with unmanned systems.
Plotting Coordinates
Marines with 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, plot coordinates to fly a 3D printed unmanned aircraft and ground systems on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 26, 2017.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. John Hamilton
VIRIN: 170926-M-MK246-1014C

Tal Ohana, mayor of Yeruham, said: "As part of a complete ecosystem in the UAV domain, which includes an experimental field, an academic campus and an accelerator in the near future, we are proud to host the international MoSAIC challenge in Yeruham, in which companies from all over the world will participate. The choice of Yeruham as a site for the competition reflects the technological revolution that the town has undergone in recent years. The UAV ecosystem is one of the main growth engines in the city. The challenge is a means for us to expose companies to the existing infrastructure in the city of Yeruham which can support their business development processes. Thanks to our friends at MAFAT, IWTSD and the Merage Institute for trusting Yeruham."

All applications will be reviewed by a distinguished international panel of expert judges from the IWTSD, DDR&D and other relevant government organizations, according to Tarsi. Applicants that will be selected to participate in further phases of the challenge will receive access to workshops, knowledge sessions, networking events, mentoring, and media. 

Winners and runners-up of each of the mini-challenges will be announced at a final event in Tel Aviv, Israel, in the spring of 2022 where they will gain significant exposure to relevant customers and sponsors across the U.S. and Israeli governments, as well as other international investors, customers and partners, around the globe with the most cutting edge and relevant hardware and software solutions that address the Israeli and U.S. governments' most challenging and longstanding technological gaps in this mission area, Tarsi added.

For more information about MoSAIC and to participate, visit https://mosaichallenge.com.