Visible to the public 2020 CPS ChallengeConflict Detection Enabled

2020 NSF Student CPS Challenge

Visible to the public 


2020 CPS Challenge


TBD May 2020

TIMPA airfield, 3250 N Reservation Rd, Marana, AZ 85653



Drylands form a significant portion of earth's surface, yet the surface processes affecting, and impacted by soil, are poorly understood due to undersampling. For the 2020 NSF Challenge, student teams will deploy and recover soil probes to measure properties that are of interest to ecologists.



The goal of this challenge is to use a multirotor aircraft with downward facing camera, and possibly other sensors, to search for an ideal experiment site for deployment of a soil probe, and recovery of the probe back to base after a pre-specified dwell time.

Teams will be provided with simulation tools on the CPS-VO, as well as support with hardware decisions.

Why participate?  

  • Develop autonomy for UAV team, in a fun setting.

  • Engage in agile design iterations, both for software and hardware.

  • Experiment with complex mission scenarios using powerful cloud-based simulation tools.

  • Repurpose solution to other problems, such as searching for a strategic location to deploy and recover a sensor probe.

Ideal teams: The challenge is designed for undergraduate teams participating in a one semester course. Teams should have a mentor who is a graduate student, or a faculty member that can provide direction and suggest technical approaches. All solutions will involve both software and hardware.

Software: Teams should plan to use the Robot Operating System (ROS). Development can be done exclusively with Python, though C++ could be used as well. Sample code for a simple swarm flocking algorithm is available at the project GitHub repository. Potential teams are encouraged to join the project (See the "Join Us" balloon in the top-right corner of the header graphic above) . 

Hardware: Any vehicle that supports the ROS compatible PX4 autopilot stack is suitable for the challenge. The vehicle should have on-board companion computer, and cameras that support ROS integration in order to facilitate algorithm implementation. Project organizers have listed a few compatible off the shelf and custom vehicles below. 

Packing list:

We will provide water and electrolytes, lunch, snacks, power cords, power strips, chairs, work tables, soldering iron stations, and miscellaneous tools.

We ask you to keep the following two in mind when packing.

  • Drone specific tools and spares -- because things will break, and disassembly and reassembly might be needed on the field.
  • Desert attire -- hats, shades, boots, and sunscreen. It will be sunny and hot (~85F peak) outside the shade structure. Airy clothes and hiking socks and boots are recommended in the Sonoran Desert.

Legal requirements: 

  1. Team vehicle should have an FAA registration number.  Go to and register under section 336.
  2. The pilot in charge for each team will need to be a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) . The pilot will need to show their membership card at the event.

If you have questions, please contact Jnaneshwar Das 


See Previous CPS Challenges: