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Challenge Wildland Fire Sensors

Wildland Fire Sensors

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 352
Posted: Apr 06 2017
Challenge ID: 9933927
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The solution is a field-ready prototype system that includes one central data receiving unit and at least two sensor nodes measuring fine particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and carbon dioxide (CO2) that communicates data wirelessly and measures a wide dynamic range of concentration levels expected during wildland fires. The prototype system should be accurate, lightweight, and easy to operate, enabling first responders, states and nearby communities to easily measure wildland fire smoke exposure. In addition to the potential award, all Solvers providing prototypes will directly receive information on their system’s laboratory test results as well as qualitative feedback by air monitoring experts. If the system proves to be reliable and useful, deployment of a larger-scale sensor network is anticipated as part of follow-up projects measuring smoke impacts during wild and prescribed fires. This is a Reduction-to-Practice Challenge that requires delivery of a written preview of the solution, followed by a prototype system with supporting documentation.



Informational Webinars for Potential Solvers:

May 8th at 1:00 pm Eastern (5:00 pm GMT): and Audio: 1-866-299-3188, code: 919 541 1894   

May 16th at 8:00 am Eastern (12:00 pm GMT): and Audio: 1-866-299-3188, code: 919 541 1894  


Wildland fires often produce significant air pollution, which poses health risks to first responders, residents in nearby communities and other populations that are impacted by smoke as it travels downwind. Federal, state, local, and tribal agencies are interested in new ways to monitor air quality during fire events to better protect public health. However, the ability to quickly deploy air pollution measurement stations that could be used to make decisions about health risks has been limited by the cost of monitoring technology, portability and ease-of-use constraints, and technical maintenance requirements. Emerging technologies including miniaturized direct-reading sensors, compact microprocessors, and wireless data communications provide new opportunities to detect air pollution. This Challenge is looking for Solvers to build a multi-node measurement system capable of rapid deployment and continuous real-time monitoring of highly dynamic air pollution levels during a fire event, including PM2.5, CO, O3, and CO2, to provide smoke exposure information to those in close proximity to fires and further downwind.

The submission to the Challenge should include the following:

Step 1: A written preview of the proposed solution addressing specific Solution Requirements presented in the Challenge. The written preview, expected to be about 3 pages, should include a brief description of the measurement principle for the four target pollutants, size (weight and dimensions), power requirements, maintenance procedures, data communications, and cost estimate for a production scale, turn-key sensor network kit composed of six sensor nodes and one central data receiving unit. You should also include a photograph of the prototype sensor system (not part of the 3 pages above).  This preview will be reviewed to ensure the proposed system can be accepted for laboratory evaluation. 

Step 2: If the Solver is requested to send in their sensor system, provided solution should include:

  1. A prototype sensor system capable of rapid deployment and continuous monitoring of air pollution during a fire event.  The system should include a central data receiving unit and at least two nodes that collect air quality and location data that is transmitted back to the central receiving unit on a 5-minute frequency.  The central data receiving unit may be cloud-based if FedRAMP compliant ( 

  2. Supporting documentation, including the following: 1) Operation manual with sufficient detail for an end user to independently operate and maintain the sensor system, 2) Description of any potential safety hazards were the system to be exposed to fire, and 3) Cost estimate for a production scale, turn-key sensor network kit composed of six sensor nodes and one central data receiving unit.

The Challenge award is contingent upon qualitative evaluation and experimental validation of the submitted Solutions by the Seeker. The maximum award for meeting all the requirements is $60,000. If more than one meets all the requirements, the Seeker will decide on a winner that best fits their needs. In the event that no solution meets all the requirements, the Seeker may, at their discretion, give partial awards to those submissions deemed promising from a minimum of $10,000 up to $50,000.


Participants must certify they do not have identical or essentially equivalent work currently funded by a Federal agency.

Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment are not eligible to participate. A Federal employee acting outside the scope of his or her employment should consult his or her ethics official before participating in the Challenge.

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. See the Challenge Specific Agreement (CSA) for details.

Written submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on November 22, 2017Late written submissions will not be considered. Once the written submissions are received, the Seeker will request prototypes and provide directions for shipping after the above deadline. Prototypes along with supporting documentation must be received by the Seeker by January 5, 2018, for testing.

NOTE: The Seeker intends to return prototypes to the Solver after testing is complete, but is not responsible for any damage that occurs during testing, shipping and handling. The Seeker may wish to negotiate with some Solvers for further testing and potential buying/leasing of equipment after the Challenge. The Seeker also intends to write reports which will include this Challenge and the testing data obtained. The Solvers name/brand will not be used without permission in these reports.


The Challenge is sponsored by a collaborative partnership among: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is InnoCentive?
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is an RTP Challenge?

An InnoCentive RTP (Reduction to Practice) Challenge is a prototype that proves an idea, and is similar to an InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge in its high level of detail. However, an RTP requires the Solver to submit a validated solution, either in the form of original data or a physical sample. Also the Seeker is allowed to test the proposed solution. For details about treatment of IP rights, please see the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

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