The Opioid Detection Challenge

The United States government calls upon innovators to submit novel plans for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail.


  • Call for stage 1 submissions
    February 27, 2019
  • current stageStage 1 submission deadline
    April 24, 2019
  • Stage 1 finalists announced
    Spring 2019
  • Stage 2 prototyping accelerator
    Summer 2019
  • Stage 2 live test event
    Summer 2019
  • Stage 2 winner(s) announced
    Fall 2019
Detailed Schedule


The opioid crisis

The abuse of opioids such as fentanyl has created an unprecedented public health crisis across the United States. In 2017, approximately 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. International mail has been identified as a route for illicit opioids entering the United States, commonly transported in nearly pure, powdered form. Consequently, large-scale drug trafficking can occur via small packages sent in the mail.

A collaborative effort

As part of the comprehensive government effort to address the opioid crisis, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), along with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), are seeking new tools and technologies to detect opioids in parcels moving through international service centers and express consignment facilities.

Seeking solutions

The Challenge calls on innovators in a wide range of fields, from forensic science to industrial quality assurance to artificial intelligence, to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States by participating in this Challenge. The Challenge seeks novel, automated, nonintrusive, user-friendly and well-developed designs for tools and technologies that have the potential to quickly and accurately detect opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail.

Learn More



$1.55 million

Up to eight finalists will be selected by the judges according to official Stage 1 selection criteria. Each finalist is expected be awarded an equal share of the $800,000 prize pool.

During Stage 2, finalists from Stage 1 will compete for an additional $750,000 in cash prizes. The grand prize winner is expected to be awarded $500,000, and the runner-up to be awarded $250,000.

More About Awards


Read the Selection Criteria to see the types of submissions the government is seeking.

Read the Rules, Terms and Conditions for full eligibility, selection criteria, and other requirements.

Submissions for Stage 1 closed at 4:59PM EDT on April 24th, 2019.