EU Research


Prize Award Contest on the Detection of Low Flying Objects

On 16 December, Frontex launched the Prize Award Contest on the Detection of Low Flying Objects (aerial platforms that operate in low-level airspace, from piloted ultralight and conventional aircraft to remotely piloted aircraft systems).  

The goal of the contest is to incentivize the industry to develop innovative new concepts and technological solutions for cost-efficient, scalable, and integrated operational capabilities, and to reward the best performing technological solutions. We are also aiming at obtaining insights into how these solutions may support a proof-of-concept validation of what an effective multi-layered, multi-sensor surveillance model might be for the detection of low flying objects at EU borders.

The prize award contest welcomes proposals from all types of organisations including public and private sector, as well as non-profit entities established in one of the EU Member States, including overseas countries and territories. Non-EU entities are able to apply under specific conditions.

Proposals can be submitted by mono-beneficiaries (single applications) or by consortia (joint applications). 


Annoucements


Challenge

Considering the existing technological solutions available on the market (or those currently under development) and their potential combination in a multi-layered, multi-sensor model, how can Low Flying Objects be effectively detected, tracked, and identified on European land borders in a cost-efficient, scalable and integrated way? 

The proposed technological solutions should present:

  • Innovative and effective capabilities
  • Multi-layered approach
  • Different deployment options


Context

For the European Border and Coast Guard community, the term “low-flying objects” (LFO) covers a broad set of aerial platforms that operate in low-level airspace. The definition of “low-level airspace” utilized throughout this prize contest will be defined as airspace below 1000 ft above the ground level. LFOs include a wide range of aerial platforms, from piloted ultralight and conventional aircraft to remotely piloted aircraft systems. 

Why should we detect LFOs? Emergent threat to EU safety and security?

The illegal use of low flying objects has become an emergent threat to the overall safety and security across the world, as malicious actors are adopting drone technology and developing new, creative, and sophisticated ways to commit cross-border illicit activities. The increasing careless, clueless, or criminal use of drones and other low-flying objects raises important questions on the effective management of malicious drone activity. This emerging trend has accentuated a very well-known challenge of low-level air border monitoring at EU’s internal and external borders.

At the EU level, the European Commission is committed to support EU Member States in mitigating the non-cooperative UAS threats, especially in the hands of malicious actors (criminals and terrorists).  

Contributing to the overall coherence with EU strategic initiatives and considering that the complex nature of the detection of low-flying objects at EU’s borders requires a comprehensive approach, Frontex launched this prize award contest as a platform to establish a preliminary, yet accurate overview of state-of-the-art technologies in terms of capabilities and limitations, as well as their suitability to EBCG needs. 


Expected solutions

  • Prize award contest participants should propose a technological solution that includes at least three systems, using a combination of both active and passive detection capabilities (for example: RF frequency monitoring, camera, and radar).  
  • Any other type of technical equipment, capability or service offered in the application will be assessed favourably, as additional features may enrich the proposal if relevant for the scope of this initiative.
  • The final version of the presented solutions during the operational trials must have an appropriate level of technological maturity (TRL 6 or above). 

The applicants are invited to read the requirements included in the rules of the prize contest.


Schedule of the prize contest

The prize award contest will be organized in three distinct phases.

Schedule timeline:

PHASE 1:

  • Call for Prizes: 16th December 2022 – 15th February 2023
  • Deadline for submission of proposals:  15th of February 2023 at 12:00:00 CET (Warsaw time)
  • Screening of eligibility and admissibility conditions for participation: February 2023
  • Evaluation of white papers: 16th February – 09th March 2023
  • Announcement of laureates: 15th March 2023
  • Prize contest payments: during April 2023

PHASE 2:

  • Deadline for the submission of technical proposals: 14th April 2023
  • Technical capacity presentations: 01st – 12th May 2023
  • Announcement of laureates: 26th May 2023
  • Prize contest payments: during June 2023

PHASE 3:

  • Pre-deployment coordination meetings (virtual): week of 5th – 9th of June 2023
  • Deployment preparations period [1]: 12th June – 10th July 2023 (4 weeks)
  • Deadline to deploy to the host EU Member State: 10th July 2023
  • CIT stage (1 week): 10th - 14th July 2023
  • Operational Trials (2 weeks): 14th – 28th July 2023
  • Live demonstration event to EC, EU Agencies and MSs: 26th – 27th July 2023
  • Announcement of laureates: 07th - 11th August 2023
  • Final awarding ceremony: September 2023 (Date TBC)
  • Prize contest payments: during October 2023

[1] This shall include field visits to the testing sites coordinated by Frontex and host MS.

This schedule may be changed without prior notice.

Current version dated from 16.12.2022


Prizes and additional incentives

Additional incentives: 

PROMOTION      

The winners of the prize award contest (first, second and third prizes) will have the opportunity to promote their ideas, results, and technological solutions in a dedicated event with the wider European Border and Coast Guard community, including European Commission, EU Agencies and Member State’s representatives and experts. 

FEEDBACK  

The winners will have the opportunity to present their ideas, results, and technological solutions to a network of experts from the European Border and Coast Guard community on different occasions through expert-level meetings and workshops. 

VISIBILITY 

Frontex will promote and support the visibility of the technological solutions that underwent operational testing, by granting a symbolic “participation badge” for each prize winner that can be used publicly. 

OPERATIONAL TRIALS 

The participants will benefit from an operational sandbox environment centered around real-world simulations of Low Flying Object threats, that will be emulated by an adversarial independent testing team. The operational trials will allow an immersive testing and evaluation environment by bridging the gap between industry and experts, promoting networking and discussions on a working level. This will support a more thorough understanding of EBCG community's operational needs.  

INSIGHTS  

The participants will have access to weekly debriefings and retrospective sessions to further understand the threat scenarios and modus operandi, so that they can improve and optimize their solutions. 

NETWORKING 

Additionally, the participants will have the opportunity to develop partnerships or identify potential business opportunities with other participating companies but also with experts, end-users, EU representatives and stakeholders.


How to apply?


FAQ

Applicants may have a leading role in only one proposal, which means that they may submit one single application or one joint application in the role of “Lead Participant”. There are no restrictions in participating in joint proposals as supporting participants, which means that an applicant can participate in more than one group submitting a joint proposal.

Joint applications can be submitted by a group of up to seven participants (different legal entities). The applicants shall appoint a “Lead Participant” to represent them towards Frontex. The eligible participants shall jointly hold the responsibility for fulfilling and respecting the conditions and requirements set out in the Rules of Contest. A joint proposal can have an unlimited number of subcontractors. However, applicants shall note that subcontractors shall not be responsible for implementing core activities, as defined in the Rules of Contest.

Applicants should fill in an online pre-registration questionnaire available at the website and submit a package of documents both in paper format (to Frontex, Research and Innovation, plac Europejski 6, 00-844 Warsaw, Poland) and electronically to prize.award@frontex.europa.eu. The list of documents to be submitted in the first phase of application is available in Annex I to the Rules of Contest.

Yes, it's mandatory. Applicants should pre-register for participation in the Prize Award Contest by fulfilling the EU survey form before the deadline: no later than Wednesday, 15th of February 2023, 12:00:00 (CET – Warsaw Time). We encourage all applicants to start preparing their proposal by filling in the online pre-registration questionnaire.

The conditions for participation are described in detail in Section 6 of the Rules of Contest (RoC). For reference, the Applicant (or Lead Applicant in the case of joint applications) must be a legal entity (natural person, public or private body) established in one of the EU Member States, including overseas countries and territories.  

Non-EU entities can participate as 'supporting participants' or 'subcontractors' in a joint application but should keep in mind the guidelines mentioned in Sections 6.3 and 6.4 of the RoC. Please note that subcontractors shall not be responsible for implementing core activities, as defined within the scope of the RoC as defined in section 5.3. All applicants shall take into consideration that the total number of different legal entities per application is limited to seven, as per Section 6.3. 

In principle, Prize Contest applicants may subcontract a clearly defined set of tasks to a third party.  Subcontractors’ roles and responsibilities, along with their estimated scope of work must be clearly indicated in the White Paper.  Subcontractors cannot be responsible for implementing core activities of the proposal.

Yes, the Lead Applicant can withdraw their application at any time. They should notify the Prize Award team as soon as the problem arises by sending an email to prize.award@frontex.europa.eu  

The final version of the presented solutions during the operational trials should have an appropriate level of technological maturity (TRL 6 or above). However, please note that in phase 1 and 2 applications from start-ups or spin-offs can submit a proposal with technological solutions of TRL 4 and use the Prize Award Contest to further test, develop and validate the solutions to demonstrate the higher TRL level by the Operational Trials. Furthermore, major industry OEM’s and Integrators are encouraged to use the Prize Award Contest to field test new innovative models, variations/modifications or improvements on their latest technological solutions or product family.

The results of Phase 1 evaluations shall be communicated to all applicants by 15 March 2023. More information about the updated schedule can be found in the Rules of Contest and on the website.

When applying as a consortium or group, it is recommended that the Lead Participant assigns a single, consistent name to represent the consortium throughout the Prize Contest. This name shall be provided in both the pre-registration questionnaire and the official application form. The list of consortium members and their respective roles and responsibilities within the Prize Contest will be made publicly available. It is recommended that the lead participant determines the distribution of any prize incentives among consortium members.

There are no limitations to the number and type of systems to be used, as long as they fulfil the minimum mandatory requirement as defined in section 5.3 of the RoC:  The technological solution shall include at least 3 different systems, using a combination of both Active and Passive detection capabilities (for example: RF frequency monitoring, Camera, and Radar). Other technical considerations in terms of requirements are described in detail in section 5 of the RoC. Please refer also to Table 3 and Table 4, in particular 'Section 2 – Proposed Solution', where the scale for assessment of award criteria indicators is presented for Phase 1 – White Paper Evaluation.

Yes. The proposed solutions shall be deployed inside a testing area defined by referenced volume of 5 kilometres in length, 1 kilometre in depth and 1000ft in height. Each Participant shall be assigned a dedicated testing area for individual testing without interference from other participants. The RoC provides more details in section 5.4.4. Participants shall be free to reconfigure their surveillance model and asset locations throughout the Prize Contest to better adapt to local conditions.


Contact

Please email us if you have any questions: prize.award@frontex.europa.eu

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