Swiss researchers win robotics contest funded by US research agency DARPA

Bern, 07.10.2021 - The final of the three-year Subterranean Challenge robotics competition funded by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defense) took place in the USA from 21 to 24 September 2021. An international team with representatives from Switzerland and with participation of armasuisse Science and Technology (S+T) won the fiercely contested competition.

The winning team, called CERBERUS, competed successfully against seven international teams from the robotics elite in the final in the USA. The team consisted of robotics researchers from Switzerland (ETH Zurich, Flyability SA), the USA, UK and Norway.
In order to prepare as well as possible for the DARPA Challenge, the Swiss Drone and Robotics Centre of the DDPS (SDRC DDPS) from armasuisse Science and Technology (S+T) provided above-ground and underground facilities together with the Engineering/Rescue/ABC training unit of the Swiss Armed Forces. CERBERUS were able to test various different robots under realistic conditions in the facilities.

Walking robots from the SDRC DDPS in operation

The robotics competition started in 2019 and reached its climax at the final in September 2021. The task set by the challenge was to explore the surrounding area as fast as possible with any number of robots and precisely locate items such as fire extinguishers, first aid equipment and manikins (to simulate human survivors). Small aircraft and ground vehicles were used to tackle the tasks. In addition to more conventional wheeled and tracked vehicles, four-legged walking robots also played a key role. The winner of the challenge relied heavily on four-legged robots. Four Swiss ANYmal walking robots were deployed in the competition – one of them from the SDRC DDPS.

The research agency DARPA of the US Department of Defense conducted the competition to promote novel approaches to rapid mapping, navigation and search in underground environments. The challenge is one of the most demanding robotics competitions in the world.

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