The company took the $50,000 top prize with a solution to improve sensing capabilities for the DoD.

Urban Sky showcased the best solution to enhance environmental awareness and joint force maneuverability for the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force (1st MDTF) at the Extended Range Sensor Challenge’s final pitch event.

The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), in partnership with 1st MDTF, developed the challenge to find ventures with sensor technologies that may help 1st MDTF characterize the multi-domain operational environment while also enabling joint freedom of action. Executed in coordination with the Pacific Northwest Mission Acceleration Center (PNW MAC) as part of the NSIN Mission Acceleration Centers program, the prize challenge awarded a combined $75,000 to the top three companies. Urban Sky was named the winner of the competition, with second and third being HyperKelp and IoT/AI Inc., an alumni of the NSIN Propel-Economic Development Initiative (EDI) program.

“This challenge is a big success for us,” said Lt. Col. Blake Schwartz, 1st MDTF Data Science Chief, “We’re getting exposure to a lot of different technologies, many of which we didn’t know about at all, some of which are better understood and put our problem set out there for a lot of industries as well.”

About the Winners

Urban Sky Urban Sky develops ultra-lightweight tactical, controllable balloon systems that can be launched by one operator in less than five minutes.. Called “microballoons,” these objects float into the stratosphere while carrying a small payload and maintaining a constant position over an area. Launching at about the size of a Volkswagen bus and inflating in the air to the size of a one-car garage, the microballoons are much smaller than traditional stratospheric balloons, which can engulf a football stadium when inflated.

HyperKelp HyperKelp provides warfighters with the ability to deploy sensors capable of detecting airborne and surface targets at ranges well over the horizon. The company leverages ocean currents to place small, cost-effective sensors in strategic locations to help the DoD quickly gain information superiority. The sensors may also act as decoys to confuse adversaries by creating the illusion of carrier battle groups and other surface assets.

IoT/AI NSIN Propel EDI alumni IoTAI’s creates sensors, analytic networks, radios, and geospatial technology to help develop solutions for critical Internet of Things (IoT) and power capabilities during endeavors on the edge. The venture also provides a next-generation mesh networking algorithm that is scalable, efficient, and ultra-resilient. For this challenge, the company developed a virtually undetectable communications sensor package that meshes between air, ground, and sea assets, improving joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) dominance for the U.S. and its allies.

The pitch contestants were asked to show solutions that are self-powered and can be operated for more than two weeks without recharging. Solutions also had to be capable of carrying customizable payloads up to seven pounds and taking off and landing in small areas, among other qualifications.

All entries were judged on the technical merits, operational effectiveness, and cost of their solution, as well as the qualifications of their team members, the ability to translate the solution to non-defense markets, and the quality of the pitch they delivered during a hybrid event, hosted by the PNW MAC, on Aug. 30.

See the event here.

About National Security Innovation Network

NSIN is a program office in the U.S. Department of Defense, nested within the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). We are set up to collaborate with a wide variety of innovators to include universities, researchers, students, entrepreneurs and start-ups. We create opportunities for collaboration across communities and connect those that might not traditionally work in national security. Together, we help drive national security innovation and develop technologies that directly support the individuals responsible for protecting our country.

For more information or interview requests with Team NSIN, please contact us at