AFRL announces Airlift Challenge, AI-based planning competition

  • Published
  • By Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

ROME, N.Y. (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, will host the second iteration of the Airlift Challenge competition Oct. 30, 2023, through Feb. 19, 2024. To identify new solutions, AFRL is inviting international researchers and university students to register to apply their skills and develop unprecedented new algorithms that achieve on-time deliveries while improving efficiencies.  

The online event, which is open to the public through, seeks to advance state-of-the-art planning algorithms for executing airlift operations. The Challenge winners will be presented in June 2024 at the International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling (ICAPS) in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The first Airlift Challenge was held online from Jan. 23 through Feb. 27, 2023. There were two winners, and the results were presented at the International Society for Optics and Photonics, or SPIE. A paper was also published with writeups from each winner on the SPIE website. 

“A large demand and tight deadlines make airlift operations difficult to plan even under ideal conditions,” said Dr. Andre Beckus, AFRL machine learning researcher at the Information Directorate “Unexpected disruptions only further complicate the problem, potentially introducing major delays and stressing planning software to its limits.” 

During the competition, participants can submit agents for immediate scoring to see their rank on a real-time leaderboard. In the end, three overall winners will be announced. Their proposed solutions will be open-source. 

“The Airlift Challenge provides a simulation environment in which artificial intelligence, or AI, agents can interact,” Beckus said. “Agents will be tested against a series of scenarios of ever-increasing complexity with evaluation ending when a time limit is reached or when the agent misses too many deliveries.” 

To learn more and to register for the competition, visit Teams, researchers and university students are encouraged to register and try out the starter kit ahead of the competition start date. For questions, please contact

About AFRL 

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit 


References to non-federal entities do not constitute or imply Department of Defense or Air Force endorsement of any company or organization.