BORDERS Small Unmanned Aircraft System Competition

 - This competition is now closed -


DHS Border Patrol agents routinely conduct operations in very rough and challenging terrains.  These operations are to detect, locate, and/or track alien and drug smugglers, illegal immigrants, terrorists, terrorist weapons, missing-persons, and to support natural or man-made disasters.  The agents rely on airborne reconnaissance, surveillance, tracking, and acquisition platforms that can be rapidly deployed, remain aloft, and provide video data without sacrificing personnel safety and security.  Occasionally, manned aircraft may not be available to support government personnel.  A portable, unmanned aerial vehicle offers a solution for the platform of need.

Competition Objective

The Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) Competition, under the leadership of S&T’s Borders and Maritime Security Division (BMD) and Office of University Programs (OUP) of the Department of Homeland Security, challenges students to develop prototypes for small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) based on government-provided design criteria. The competition will reward innovative SUAS design concepts meeting the requirements of border and maritime surveillance mission. Specifically, BMD is interested in developing an SUAS prototype that is relatively quiet during low altitude operations but still within specified constraints of range, dash speed, payload, and size, weight and power. Additional information including specific mission requirements and other guidelines will be provided upon an applicant’s submission of the Expression of Interest form below. 

Interested Applicants

Interested students or student teams must fill out the Expression of Interest form by midnight on September 19, 2012.  After a three-four month (Fall 2012) design phase, participants will submit a full proposal by December 14, 2012.  All submitted projects will be judged by a peer-review panel consisting of government personnel and subject matter experts from industry and academia.  Teams will be judged on: communication of project objectives, design approach, project organization and probability of success. The top 3-4 projects will be chosen and funded in the amount of approximately $30,000 each to build a flying prototype of their design during the spring 2013 semester. The selected teams will demo the platform and provide a technical report in May 2013.


This peer-reviewed competition is open to undergraduate or graduate students in aeronautical engineering or related departments in the U.S. The project must be of a size and complexity such that awardees can be reasonably expected to build a prototype in one semester.

Expression of Interest

Teams must first complete the Expression of Interest form below, which includes a Statement of Interest. Once Teams have submitted this form, they will receive complete guideline and specifications for design submissions, due December 14, 2012.

Expression of Interest Form 

*Some Mac users have experience problems while submitting the form. If you are unsure if you team's form has been sent, please email


Can I participate in this competition if it is past the September 19th deadline?


Can I participate if I am not a U.S. citizen?


Can both undergraduate and graduate students participate?


How will the awards be distributed to my institution?

Awards will be distributed as subcontracts to your academic institution. 

What are the technical requirements for this project?

You will receive them after submitting the Expression of Interest.

What is BORDERS?

The National Center for Border Security and Immigration (BORDERS) is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence (COE) led by The University of Arizona. As a consortium of 15 premier institutions, BORDERS is dedicated to the development of innovative technologies, proficient processes, and effective policies that will help protect our Nation’s borders, foster international trade, and enhance long-term understanding of immigration dynamics.

Who can I contact for more information?

Steve Pentland at