NSWC Crane, ONR, NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge Host AISUM Project Talk

Jan 7, 2021

PRESENTATION: AISUM Project Talk presentation can be found HERE.

VIDEO: The event was recorded. You can find that video HERE.

Submission deadline is no later than 02:00 PM ET on January 29, 2021

On Thursday, December 17, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge hosted the virtual Artificial Intelligence for Small Unit Maneuvers (AISUM) Project Talk. The event featured representatives from the U.S. Navy who answered questions from industry and academia about a new prize challenge put forth by the Navy. The event brought together 180 registrants to hear about the need to develop an algorithm to enhance the maneuver and reconnaissance capabilities of autonomous drones within defined scenarios.

The AISUM prize challenge is part of the Navy’s efforts to identify ideas and best practices for using AISUM to lower the risk to America’s fighting men and women in dangerous threat situations. It is focused on cultivating academic and non-traditional companies’ participation. The goal is to break the concept down to smaller, more attainable levels of capability aligned to a competition format to provide for incentives and interest.

The project talk provided an overview of the capabilities needed and outlined the phases in which the challenge is organized.

  • Phase I – Will involve submission of white papers along with the review and presentation of up to 25 selected papers.
  • Phase II – Up to 10 selected teams will participate in virtual scenarios
  • Phase III – Up to 3 selected teams will participate in a live exercise

The live exercise will test the ability of each team’s fully autonomous drone to enter the front of a building, maneuver through the structure as it identifies objects and inhabitants before finding and exiting the rear of the building.

The challenge will use government furnished equipment and is open to industry and academia. A $250,000 prize will be awarded at the end of Phase II. The Government expects the purse to increase to $500,000 for Phase III.


  • Andy Brough – Expeditionary Warfare Lead, NSWC Crane
  • Dan Cabel – Special Operations Liaison, NSWC Crane
  • Tony Vespa – Beta Team Lead, LCDR USN Naval Special Warfare
  • Blake Busey – Physical Drone Lead, NSWC Crane
  • Brent Reynolds – Virtual Team Lead, Expeditionary C31 and Cyber Division, Chief Scientist, NSWC Crane
  • Josh Borneman – Technical Team Lead, Technical chief Scientist for Wxpeditionary Warfare, NSWC Crane
  • Marissa Wagler – Contracting Team, NSWC Crane
  • John Dickinson – Contracting Team, NSWC Crane
  • Eric VanWiltenburg – Legal Team Lead

Visit Challenge.Gov to learn more about federal prize competition opportunities.