Tag Archives: defense entrepreneurs forum

The Syria Airlift Project: DEF Innovation Competition 1st Prize:

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. This was the one-pager from the winning entry.

GRAND PRIZE WINNER

Contestant: Mark Jacobsen, USAF Officer

The Syria Airlift Project: Swarming Airlift for Cargo Delivery in Constested Airspace

PROBLEM:

In many cases, the United States cannot airlift supplies into non-permissive conflict zones without a major military effort to take down Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS). Even then, manned cargo aircraft are vulnerable to surface-to-air fire from small arms and MANPADs. These challenges became apparent during the recent siege of Yazidi civilians in Iraq. With a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding and pressure on the US to “do something”, the US reluctantly began kinetic strikes to facilitate airdrops. In Syria, meanwhile, up to 240,000 civilians have been besieged by the Assad regime, ISIS, and various militias. The international community has no way to alleviate this suffering without direct military intervention. The ability to deliver cargo through non-permissive airspace would give the US government more flexible policy options for addressing humanitarian crises, and could open up new options in A2/AD environments. Non-governmental organizations could also employ this capability to bypass logistic bottlenecks and deliver aid to inaccessible or widely distributed populations.

SOLUTION:

The revolution in micro UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) opens up a new paradigm for cargo delivery. Instead of using one vulnerable airplane carrying a large amount of cargo, it is now possible to swarm cargo in small packets. Micro UAVs are difficult to detect, and no one aircraft is worth the price of a surface-to-air missile. Although these aircraft are extremely payload limited, they could deliver critical medical supplies like insulin or antibiotics, and in sufficient quantities they could move greater masses of food or other supplies (imagine an army of ants carrying away a picnic lunch).

THE SPECIFICS:

After an eye-opening research trip among Syrian refugees, I founded the Syria Airlift Project to explore technologies for delivering humanitarian aid through contested airspace. My team and I have developed a small fleet of experimental UAVs. Each vehicle costs less than $350 and can carry 2-3 lbs. We plan to iterate soon to a larger vehicle that can carry 5-10 lbs. The planes are built from common materials, and an experienced builder can assemble one in just a few hours. We are writing custom software so a single operator can generate a swarm of deconflicted flight plans based on a single reference flight plan. To ensure the technology does not fall into the hands of malicious actors, we are writing custom software and hardware failsafes that will destroy the autopilot in the event of a crash. We have successfully flown our aircraft on profiles including automatic takeoffs, airdrops at designated GPS coordinates, and auto landings.

THE ROADMAP:

In the coming months, we will continue developing the ground station software and self-destruct mechanisms, building a larger aircraft, and extending our fleet’s range and endurance. We will also be developing our concept of operations for building, maintaining, and operating the aircraft. After extensive testing in the US, we hope to deploy a few trial aircraft with an NGO partner that serves northern Syria. I am also reporting on our work back to Air Mobility Command (AMC), the provider of global air mobility for the United States.

*ANCILLARY BENEFITS TO DOD: *

Through my research, I have been able to build relationships with many key players in the micro-UAV industry. I am now on the volunteer developer team for 3D Robotics UAV autopilots and software, where I am focusing on improving flight safety, training, and the integration of private UAVs into the national airspace system. I am also working with AMC contacts on a concept for “standoff airdrop”, that would allow AMC aircraft to conduct airdrops at significant range from drop zones.

eDIVO: DEF Innovation Competition 2nd Prize

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. This is the second prize winner posted originally at the DEF Whiteboard.

SECOND PLACE WINNER

Contestant: Charlie Hymen, US NAVY

Access to the Navy’s abundance of official information is too limited. This is a problem recognized by leaders onboard ships and in operational units at sea. There is no shortage of official military guidance that discusses a leader’s responsibilities pertaining to basic administration, personnel management, and professional development, but this information is often embedded in large, cumbersome documents that one must access from a computer. This proves challenging for those at sea, as computers are scarce resources on many vessels. Furthermore, inexperienced officers and junior Sailors have difficulty locating the correct information needed at any given time because they simply do not know where find it.

eDIVO will solve these inefficiencies. As a mobile application that will be available through the Apple Store and Google Play in February 2015, eDIVO will provide access to the most commonly used and referenced Navy documents and serve as a quick reference management and education tool for Navy leaders of all ranks. The mobile application will also extract the most important information contained in these documents and organize it in a logical, user-friendly format. All information included in the application is nonproprietary, and the vast majority will be accessible free from internet connectivity. Whether conducting an inspection in the engine room, training with peers while navigating around the world, or mentoring a struggling Sailor at sea, eDIVO will enable leaders to provide accurate guidance to their subordinates, peers, and superiors at any time and in any place. No longer will one be required to waste valuable time finding access to a computer, locating pertinent documents, and printing the applicable pages; a user’s personal mobile device is the only hardware necessary.

Topics of focus within eDIVO include, but are not limited to, legal and financial guidance, operational safety precautions, basic navigation principles, sexual assault reporting procedures, and suicide prevention measures. Armed with the Navy’s official guidance on these subjects, leaders will be able to shave from their workweeks hours spent searching for information. Not only will leaders be empowered to provide accurate guidance, but they will also have more time available that can be devoted to leading their teams, learning their jobs, strategizing against potential threats, and ultimately becoming more effective and informed leaders.

The Navy has provided initial funding to develop the first version of this mobile application. While approximately 75% of information contained within eDIVO is applicable to all ranks and specialties in the Navy, the initial version is tailored to leaders serving on ships. Future versions of eDIVO will be customized to those in other specialties. On a broader level, eDIVO represents the first operationally focused mobile application funded within the Department of the Navy. Its success, and the lessons learned from its development, will shape the Navy’s policy for all future mobile ventures.

MoneyJet: DEF Innovation Competition 3rd Prize

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. This is the third prize winner posted originally at the DEF Whiteboard.

THIRD PRIZE WINNER

Contestant: Dave Blair, US Air Force Officer

MoneyJet: Harnessing Big Data to Build Better Pilots

BLUF: ‘Moneyball’ for flying. Track flight recorder and simulator ‘Big Data’ throughout an aviator’s flying career. Structure and store these data so that aviators can continually improve their performance and maximize training efficiency for their students.

Problem:

High-fidelity data exists for flights and simulators in an aviator’s career. However, these data are not structured as ‘big data’ for training and proficiency – we track these statistics by airframe, and not aircrew, unless there is an incident. Therefore, we rely on flawed heuristics and self-fulfilling prophecies about ‘fit’ when we could be using rich data. Solution. Simple changes in data retrieval and storage make a ‘big data’ solution feasible. By making these datasets available to aircrew, individuals can observe their own trends and how they compare to their own and other flying populations. Instructors can tailor flights to student-specific needs. Commanders can identify ‘diamonds in the rough’ (good flyers with one or two key problems) who might otherwise be dismissed, and ‘hidden treasure’ (quiet flyers with excellent skills) who might otherwise be overlooked. Like in ‘Moneyball,’ the ability to build a winning team at minimum cost using stats is needed in this time of fiscal austerity.

Benefits:

Rich Data environment for objective assessments.

o Self-Improvement, Squadron Competitions, Counterbalance Halo/Horns effect

o Whole-force shaping, Global trend assessments, Optimize training syllabi

o Maximize by giving aircrew autonomy in configuring metrics.

Costs: Contingent on aircrew seeing program as a benefit or a burden.

o Logistics: Low implementation cost, data already exist, just need to re-structure.

o Culture: Potential high resistance if seen as ‘big brother’ rather than a tool.

o Minimize by treating as non-punitive ‘safety data’ not ‘checkride data’

Opportunities:

Partial foundation for training/ops/tactics rich data ecosystem.

o Build culture of ‘Tactical Sabermetrics’ – stats-smart organizational learning

o Amplify thru Weapons School use of force stats, large-n sim experiments

Risks

Over-reliance on statistics to the expense of traditional aircrew judgment

o If used for promotion, rankings, could lead to gaming & stats obsession

o Mitigate by ensuring good stats only replace bad stats, not judgment Implementation. First, we build a secure repository for all flight-performance-relevant data.

All data is structured by aviators, not airframes. This data is stored at the FOUO level for accessibility (w/secure annex for wartime data.) Second, we incorporate data retrieval and downloading into post-flight/sim maintenance checklists. Finally, we present data in an intuitive form, with metrics optimized to mission set. For individuals, we provide stats and percentiles for events such as touchdown point/speed, fuel burn, and WEZ positioning. For groups, we provide trend data and cross-unit comparison with anonymized names.

Building a DoD Outpost in Silicon Valley: DEF Innovation Competition

As part of our continuing Innovation Week (or two weeks – call it innovation), we will be posting the contestant pieces from the DEF Innovation Contest. Originally posted at the DEF Website.

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. We will feature the one-pagers from the competition over the next 8 days. The following contribution is from Josh Steinman, a US Naval Officer.

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Software is increasingly becoming the defining mechanism by which the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps achieve tactical, operational, and strategic decision dominance. Previously the Department of Defense had achieved this ability through industry.

As software takes on increasingly prominent roles in the Department of Defense, we will need to establish closer relations with the industry that builds it, much like the Department of Defense built long-standing ties to the industrial base during the pre-War, inter-War, and post-War periods of the early 20th century. These close links will ensure that the DoD retains the ability to rapidly integrate cutting edge digital technologies into our operations, as well as influence their development at all stages.

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One high-impact, low cost way to advance this goal is to establish a small joint detachment of hand-picked DoD personnel to operate primarily in Silicon Valley that would act as an intellectual “long-range reconnaissance squad”. This entity would consist of approximately 10 personnel nominated by a small group of senior officers and civilians (plus 1 support and 1 General or Flag Officer), stationed in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Their mission would be to help integrate the defense and software industries by achieving the following tasks:

a. Ensure continuity of action before, during, and after senior officer and civilian visits with entities in the non-Defense technology sector. Achieve this by acting as travel agent for senior officials before they depart (coordinating visits with local technology companies), local guide upon arrival, note-taker and action officer while engaged on the ground, and execution agent upon the senior’s departure.

b. Identify early-stage ventures with potential DOD applicability and connect them with appropriate resources to utilize their technology for DOD purposes. Interface with DOD and service-centric early-stage and midstage venture capital firms, and liaison with entities such as DARPA, IARPA, US Army REF, CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, and OSD RTTO.

c. Educate students, entrepreneurs, academics, and venture capitalists on DOD challenges and process with an eye towards changing attitudes towards the DOD. This would include conducting “presence missions” at regular events like SXSW, TECHCRUNCH DISRUPT, and even Burning Man.

My proposed first step is to send an exploratory detachment of 3-5 officers out to Silicon Valley for a one-month site survey mission that would result in a full proposal white-paper, to be submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff within 90 days of their return. Costs for such a survey are on the order of $6,000 per person, for one month.

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