Do you have an idea that could provide benefits to our military?

Then you’re going to be really excited to hear what today’s guest have to say. We’re going to be hearing from three individuals who are part of an innovative technology transfer program in Tampa, Florida. Under an agreement with the US Special Operations Command and the Doolittle Institute, Sofwerx was created to act an intermediary for collaborating with private industry, research labs and academic partners to develop new technol  ogies. In short, Sofwerx is a portal by which the commercial UAS industry can quickly access and jointly develop applications and technologies to solve the most pressing needs of special operations.

Sofwerx is sponsoring a special program called, ThunderDrone, a series of rapid prototyping events that focus on different aspects of drone technology. Industry and academia have been invited to submit their best ideas to the special operations community.

In this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Kelly Stratton-Feix, director of Acquisition Agility for the U.S. Special Operations Command. John Coglianese, ThunderDrone Lead at Sofwerx and Captain Barron Stone of the US Air Force and ThunderDrone Project Manager talk about Sofwerx, Thunderdrone and how collaborations like this can benefit the commercial drone industry.

In This Episode

  • Introduction. Kelly Stratton-Feix is director of Acquisition Agility for the U.S. Special Operations Command, John Coglianese is the ThunderDrone Lead at Sofwerx and Captain Barron Stone is from US Air Force and is ThunderDrone Project Manager.
  • SOFWERX. SOFWERX is an open ecosystem designed to bring nontraditional entities, start-ups, entrepreneurs, academia, research labs and the government to together to work on some of Special Operations Force’s most challenging problems. It is organized under a partnership intermediary agreement with USSOCOM and the Doolittle Institute. Recognizing that it’s not easy doing business with the government, especially doing business with the military, SOFWERX was established. With SOFWERX, companies that do not normally do business with the military have a simple pathway by which to engage government officials on innovation and technology. At the same time, military officials are able to tap into the innovation and ideas of individuals and businesses that are not part of the traditional procurement process to address key needs.
  • SOCOM. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force of the United States Armed Forces. The command is part of the Department of Defense is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
  • UAV Focus. SOFWERX interest in drones it twofold – (a) Drone technology has grown in sophistication offering opportunities to support U.S. military fighters in a variety of ways, and (b) the need to develop counter measures to protect U.S. assets from potential attacks from hostile forces taking advantage of drone technology. SOFWERX is striving to give U.S. military operators the best perspective on how a UAS threat is going to be used against them and what can be done to mitigate the risk.
  • Rapid Prototyping Events (RPE). SOFWERX uses Rapid Prototyping Events to quickly evolve ideas to a test or demonstration stage. Entities submit ideas and concepts and through a series of evaluation and team collaboration, a technology solution is evolved to address the program objectives. RPEs provide the opportunity for companies that may only have a piece of the overall solution to collaborate with other companies.  The second RPE is currently underway and focuses on emerging UAS technologies for special operations forces. RPE II is comprised of a Technology Expo, followed later by an Outdoor Demonstration. The best of breed discoveries during the Outdoor Demonstrations will ultimately proceed to RPE III, a completion to select the best solutions. RPE II is co-sponsored between the Office of the Secretary Defense, Strategic Capabilities Office and US SOCOM
    • Tech Expo: After reviewing all technology submissions, the ThunderDrone team will invite selected applicants to showcase their technology during a Tech Expo at SOFWERX in Tampa; FL. Exhibitors will have the opportunity to directly interface with SOF warfighters and interagency partners. Teaming and partnerships between companies that have complimentary capabilities is highly encouraged. Subsequently, ThunderDrone participants are not expected to offer a complete solution in order to submit for entrance to the Tech Expo, as opportunities to network and partner will be provided during the expo. The Expo is scheduled for January 29-31.
    • Outdoor Demonstration: Following the Tech Expo, selected participants/teams will be invited to demonstrate their prototype C-SUAS capabilities and be evaluated by a government assessment team. The teams will demonstrate their prototypes at an outdoor range in March/April (specific days/location TBD). This will provide an opportunity for the teams to prove the performance and maturity of their hardware. Based on performance at the Outdoor Demonstration, top participants will be invited to RPE III to compete for cash awards.
  • RPE III (Game of Drones). John explains how the teams coming out of RPE II will be narrowed down to small group to compete in the final phase of ThunderDrone. Selected teams will compete in Las Vegas at date and venue to be determined. The winners will be awarded cash prizes.
  • Opportunities for the Commercial Drone Industry. While ThunderDrone is primarily oriented to the military, commercial drone companies could benefit by staying aware of the opportunities to collaborate with industry experts to evolve their technology and ideas. SOFWERX can help companies evolve ideas to support military operations, and in many cases, these same ideas could find a place in the private marketplace. Companies working with SOFWERX could receive funding to develop their idea and still hold onto intellectual property, and therefore, turn it into a commercial enterprise.
  • RPE I (The Art of the Possible). Capt. Stone talks about the first RPE event, a Tech Rodeo held on November 1-3, hosting over 200 participants, from Got, Industry, Academia and Labs, to participate in a variety of demonstrations and presentations.
  • The Future of SOFWERX. SOFWERX is still in its infancy and plans to grow its ecosystem and continue to work with stakeholders to really accelerate decision making and lower technical risk before investment decisions are made. In addition, there may be opportunities to expand the model into other areas of the military and across different branches of service.
  • Closing. Military planners know they have to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit, particularly in terms of integrating swarming, autonomy and artificial intelligence technologies. SOFWERX recognizes there are plenty of entrepreneurs’ writing algorithms, creating code and coming up with novel ideas, but they don’t have the means all of the pieces to get to the next step. SOFWERX provides a model that can quickly adjust to changing circumstances and can work with companies to evolve their ideas quickly.

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