Back to Solicitations

Sandblaster Program


Posted Date: September, 06 2006

Response Date: October 30, 2006

Archive Date: November 14, 2006

Fedbizopps Reference

***Please Note : Effective October 16, 2006, A Revised Answer Has Been Provided in Response to this linked Question from Q&A Round 2. [click here  to review]


BROAD AGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT (BAA) 06-45 Sandblaster: This BAA will be open only through October 16, 2006. To be considered, full proposals must be received no later than 4:00 PM local Arlington, Virginia time on October 16, 2006. Proposals received after 4:00PM local Arlington, Virginia time on October 16, 2006 will be deemed non-responsive and will not be considered. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Strategic Technology Office (STO) is soliciting proposals under this BAA for the performance of system research, development, design, and testing to support the DARPA Sandblaster program objective. POC: Dr. Reggie Brothers, DARPA/STO; Email:

Problem Description

Sandblaster is a high priority effort to develop and demonstrate effective affordable solutions to the problem of helicopter landing in BROWNOUT as well as other Degraded Visual Environments (DVE). Solutions are urgently needed for the brownout phenomenon, which causes deadly accidents during helicopter landing and take-off operations in arid desert terrain. Intense, blinding dust clouds stirred up by the aircraft's main-rotor down-wash during near-ground flight can cause helicopter pilots to suddenly lose all visual cues. This creates significant flight safety risks from aircraft and ground obstacle collisions, rollover due to sloped and uneven terrain, etc. Sandblaster is focused on the rapid development and demonstration of sensor/visualization-display systems that will effectively provide an affordable, landing capability in brownout/DVE conditions where the visibility is temporarily as low as zero with zero landing-zone infrastructure and limited knowledge of the terrain comprising the landing area. Sandblaster must be affordable and self-contained, and include necessary sensors, instruments and displays to provide robust effective landing guidance to the pilot. Sandblaster must be compatible with upgrading existing military rotorcraft like the UH-60 Blackhawk. System A-Kit must be configurable to integrate with MH/UH-60 A/L/M Blackhawk Helicopters.

Program Objective and Description

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Strategic Technology Office (STO) is soliciting proposals under this BAA for Sandblaster. The objective of the Sandblaster program is to enable rotary wing aircraft to land safely in brown-out conditions with a minimum of pilot and/or crew compensation. The desired system will, at a minimum, provide brownout landing capability in zero/zero visibility conditions with warning of lateral, fore and aft drift, of ground obstacles and sloping/uneven terrain in the landing zone that could induce dynamic roll-over, and of potential collisions with other nearby aircraft and building structures. The desired system will be applicable to other DVEs (Fog, Rain, Snow). Landing guidance will come from conventional/modified instrumentation, new human-factored, cognitive Primary Functional Displays, or combination of both. The system must be able to provide the following information: aircraft rate of descent; absolute height above the ground with accuracy goal of 1ft (when below 50ft altitude); and drift velocity with accuracy goal of 1 kt and drift direction accuracy goal of 1 degree. The desired system will include sensing and display elements that will be able to be fully integrated in the MH/UH-60 Blackhawk platform. It is highly desirable that methods for incorporating the Sandblaster capability into MH/UH-60A/L/M models and legacy military helicopters to be identified. The contractor must provide suggested addendum inputs to the UH-60 Operators Manual (TM1-1520-237-10), along with suggested video training resources and instruction sets, as part the deliverables of this effort. The desired system must be able to be developed quickly on a rapid success-oriented schedule. The desired system must be affordable in volume production: the proposer must provide production cost analysis and estimates for the volume system cost for a UH-60M sized fleet buy.

Full-scale test data on dust concentrations and particle size distributions of the brownout dust clouds for MH/UH-60 class helicopters (and other legacy helicopters) have been measured at the Yuma Test Center dust range. This technical background information was made available to the proposers at the Proposers' Conference in briefings, and will also be provided in a Supplemental Information Package (Distribution Notice Code X: Distribution authorized to US Government Agencies and private individuals or enterprises eligible to obtain export-controlled technical data in accordance with DoD Directive 5230.25). All Conference attendees and Supplemental Information Package recipients are required to show eligibility to obtain such data.

The Government will fund and conduct range tests and Sandblaster system effectiveness evaluations at Government facilities, with appropriate test support from the Sandblaster system developers. Initial assessments of system effectiveness will be evaluated in a Government specified and funded flight simulator (such as the NASA Ames Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS)) and in the US Army JUH-60A RASCAL testbed. These evaluations will be based on pilot-in-the-loop handling quality ratings (Cooper Harper rating scale) when performing brown-out approach and landing as well as other Army Design Standard 33 maneuvers (e.g. hover, lateral reposition). Novel approaches to using cognitive and physiological assessment of pilot workload may be included in the system evaluation to increase our understanding of pilot reactions to the landing environment. Task performance time, sink rate at touchdown, lateral velocity at touchdown (ideally zero), forward velocity at touchdown (ideally minimal) and course/altitude profile deviation during approach will be measured. It is highly desirable that the system provide the desired situational awareness in degraded visual environments other than brownout as well. Rather than using military helicopters and pilots, the Government may elect to conduct field evaluations of an installed Sandblaster system in a commercial helicopter under brownout conditions using contractor pilots at the US Army Yuma Test Center dust range.

The Government encourages responses to this BAA by non-traditional defense contractors, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, small businesses, small disadvantaged business concerns, Historically-Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Minority Institutions (MI), large businesses and Government laboratories. Teaming arrangements between and among these groups are encouraged. However, no portion of this BAA will be set aside for organizations of a specific business classification due to the impracticality of preserving discrete or severable areas of research in the technologies sought. Government/National laboratory proposals may be subject to applicable direct competition limitations, though certain Federally Funded Research and Development Centers are excepted per PL 103-337 Section 217 and PL 105-261 Section 3136. Any responsible and otherwise qualified offeror is encouraged to respond.

Under the Sandblaster BAA, DARPA prefers and is requesting proposals for the award of a procurement contract. However other award instruments may be considered if they are found to be in the best interests of the Government.

The Government intends to issue awards based on the optimum combination of proposals that offers the best overall value to the Government. The Government reserves the right to award without discussion. The Government reserves the right to select for a ward all, some, or none of the proposals received in response to this BAA. The Government also reserves the right to select for award some portion(s) of the proposals received; in that event, the Government may select for negotiation all, or portions, of a given proposal. The Government may incrementally fund any award issued under this BAA.

Evaluation Criteria

The criteria to be used to evaluate and select proposals for this project are:


The Government anticipates that proposals submitted under this BAA will be UNCLASSIFIED.

Additional Guidance

Additional information regarding program objectives, anticipated schedule, technical milestone criteria, and proposal preparation and submittal is provided in the PIP associated with this BAA. Proposers choosing to respond to this BAA may access the Sandblaster PIP at

DARPA hosted a Proposers' Day Workshop in support of the BAA06-45 Sandblaster program on August 23, 2006 at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., 3811 Fairfax Drive, Suite 600, Arlington, Virginia from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The purpose of this conference was to provide information on the Sandblaster program; promote additional discussion on this topic; address questions from potential proposers; and provide a forum for potential proposers to present their capabilities for teaming opportunities.

NOTE: Do not contact the contracting officer identified below with respect to this announcement. All questions should be sent to

Point of Contact

Patty Matyskiela, Contract Specialist, Phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX, Fax: XXX-XXX-XXXX, Email: