The SmartSat Ideation Challenge  

SmartSat Ideation Challenge is a funding opportunity aimed to drive innovation by harnessing the skills and knowledge of the SmartSat community in a new, rapid timeframe challenge-based approach.

There will be series of Challenges and funding will vary for each iteration of the Challenge.

Details on the Firefly Challenge are outlined below.

Challenge 1: Firefly

This challenge aims to identify innovative solutions to help emergency service personnel and local communities respond more effectively to future crises.

The challenge is to rapidly conceive and, if selected, demonstrate a minimum viable product for a payload that can employ artificial intelligence to contribute to improved management of natural disaster preparation, response or recovery.
We anticipate awarding 10-15 applicants with $5,000 (plus hardware costs) to demonstrate an idea within a very compressed time frame (less than two months). A small number of these projects may be supported to develop a EOI to progress towards a SmartSat Research Project.

Benefits of participating in the Firefly Challenge

Participating in the Ideation Challenges provides an opportunity to:

  • demonstrate a payload on a stratospheric balloon, or constellation of balloons (should an opportunity present prior to the 2020/21 bushfire season)
  • demonstrate expertise and knowledge to a broad audience, which may lead to collaboration and facilitate business development
  • build capacity for AI research and development


Individuals or teams from SmartSat or SmartSatAurora partner organisation. A letter of support from the lead and administering organisation will need to be included with the application.

Key Dates

Monday 13 July Applications open
Monday 3 Aug Applications close
Late August Funding announcement
Monday 31 Aug Projects commence
Friday 25 Sept Projects complete
Early Oct Presentation and Demonstration of project

Firefly Challenge details

During the summer of 2019/2020 Australia faced the most serious national crisis from bushfires possibly in its recorded history. The climate change induced drought created the most hazardous conditions for bushfires which were realised in five states and the ACT with devastating loss of life, property, environment and economic output.

As a means to explore innovative options and solutions to managing and responding to future challenges of this type, SmartSat is looking to develop and integrate an intelligent payload, that will be deployed at stratospheric altitudes (80 kft or 24km), to support Emergency Services (e.g. bushfire support), as well as Maritime Operations and Border and Infrastructure Security. The aim is to demonstrate early stage implementation of technology solutions that improve the management of natural disaster preparation, response or recovery, in Australia or our near region. 

It is hoped that proposals arising from the challenge will serve as a stepping-stone to deploying such a payload in space.

Ideas to address natural disaster, including fires, floods, cyclones, earthquakes and other environmental disasters are welcome.  This might be through autonomously understanding the operating environment through machine analysis of sensor data, providing navigation or attitude control based on cognition of the operating environment (e.g. following a fire front) or provide information connectivity to improve resilience of communications system used by communities or emergency services.

An example based on imaging sensors is shown in the figure below to stimulate thought. It shows a space image of the bushfires from Sentinal 2A and a close up of representation of the view from 8000m (80,000ft) typical of the operating altitude of a stratospheric balloon.

Considerations for future opportunities

Consideration should be given to the potential opportunity to demonstrate the payload on a stratospheric balloon, or constellation of balloons, prior to the 2020/21 bushfire season. The long term plan is to demonstrate similar capabilities in space. Therefore, thought should be given to product evolution beyond the stratosphere.

Development Platform

SmartSat intends to standardise the proposed solutions on a single platform for this challenge.

It is a strong preference that the development platform for Phase 1 of this program is the Nvidia Jetson Nano. This has been chosen as it is attracting wide-spread utilisation, including the availability of a space qualified version. This is also the entry point for a family of products that scale to TFLOPS performance, it has a broad on-line user community, and it has good support for implementation of AI algorithms on CUDA cores.

More information can be found here: Nvidia Jetson Nano / Core Electronics Jetson Nano


Applications comprising the following should be sent to [email protected] by no later than 9am (ACST), Monday 3 August:

  1. Quad-chart (see submission template)
  2. Optional explanatory notes (two-page maximum, Word document)
  3. Letter of support from the lead and administering organisation

View Funding Guidelines here.

Fore more information, contact:

Peter Kerr, SmartSat Coordinator: Defence and National Security [email protected] / 0466 269 822

Clinton Fookes, SmartSat AI Theme Leader [email protected] / 0431 635 899