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This project is no longer open for submissions.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones that could carry communications devices to provide coverage for first responders in areas without reliable communications systems. Solutions may include untethered drones that meet the requirements below or technologies that could enhance drone technology to meet the requirements below.


In many emergency situations, first responders may not have reliable communications either due to damage to communications infrastructure, or lack of coverage in remote areas (such as in remote search and rescue scenarios). Current communications drones are tethered and can only hover over one location or area, which would not be feasible for emergency scenarios requiring a remote search location, or in areas where transportation is restricted. Other untethered drones cannot carry 15lb payloads for 30+ minutes. NIST is interested in untethered drones that meet the requirements below.


  • Drones that can carry a payload of 15 lbs or more while maintaining a UA weight of less than 55 lbs (UA + payload) in order to meet FAA’s regulations.
  • Drones that can carry a payload of 15 lbs or more and the entire UA can weigh more than 55 lbs and less than 100 lbs (UA + payload) is also of interest.
  • Capable of flying continuously for 30 minutes or more without recharging or refueling while carrying a 15 lbs payload.
  • Capable of autonomous and human controlled flight.
  • Must be free flying without tethers.
  • Rotary or fixed wings or combinations of the two.
  • Vertical take-off and landing or requires a very short runway or launch platform.
  • Capable of operating at or higher than 200 ft above ground level (AGL)
  • Must be able to maintain a stable hover in one geolocation or follow a repeatable tight circular formation.
  • Must use electric power (from batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, or other sources of electricity), internal combustion (IC) engines (using gasoline or other common liquid fuels), or a combination of electric power and IC engines (hybrid).
  • Quickly assembled and carried by two people or less.
  • Fits inside the back of a van, truck bed, or SUV for rapid deployment.

Possible Solution Areas:

Solution providers may include commercial vendors, researchers from government and academia, as well as others who have, or are developing, UAS capabilities that meet the major characteristics above.

Desired outcome of the solution:

NIST PSCR (Public Safety Research Communications) is open to collaboration on drones research or partnership opportunities.

Field of use and intended applications:

Provide first responders with access to reliable communications during emergency scenarios in which the communications infrastructure has been degraded or is non-existent.

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