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    Wright-Patterson and Lackland AFB take home 2016 AFRL Commanders Challenge Trophy

    2016 AFRL Commanders Challenge

    Photo By Wesley Farnsworth | 2016 Air Force Research Laboratory Commanders Challenge participation awards sit on a...... read more read more



    Story by Wesley Farnsworth 

    88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

    More than 40 Airmen from six bases across the United States, gathered at the Nevada National Security Site in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 9 to demonstrate their innovative solutions to a rapidly evolving threat.

    The six teams in the week-long 2016 Air Force Research Laboratory Commanders’ Challenge sought ways to detect and defeat small unmanned aerial systems.

    The teams taking on this year's challenge came from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., and were made up of enlisted, officer and civilian members.

    After teams were chosen they were given the broad task of researching and developing a system designed to aid in the defense of Air Force assets.

    "We gave each team six months and a $50,000 budget to develop a solution that could sense, predict, intercept, deny and recover an unmanned aerial system,” said Capt. John Walton, AFRL Commanders’ Challenge program execution officer. “They started with just a very broad sense of direction, and it was up to them to research, develop and acquire or purchase the equipment needed to make their solution work.”

    Teams consisted of junior workforce members, which, according to Walton, are people who have been working in their field for less than 10 years. ”Most had no idea what the threat was, what the market was, or what was going on. So, the newly formed teams spent one or two months doing research and then developed their solutions in the remaining time.”

    “It's really quite remarkable to see the solutions they were able to develop in such a short amount of time,” said Walton. “The 2015 Commanders’ Challenge had six patent applications submitted and this year we are projecting at least seven.”

    One such individual was 1st Lt David Beargie, a member of the team from Wright-Patterson whose system uses a camera and laser range finder to detect UAS devices and an attack drone with attached net for interception and retrieval.

    "We spent our first month interviewing everyone we could think of that would be impacted on base by a drone, including security forces, explosive ordnance teams, and flight operations to name a few," said Beargie. "We then took that information and compiled a list of possible solutions to which we came up with around 36,000 possible ideas."

    After much debate, the team narrowed that number of solutions down to nine and once again consulted their customers to help make the final determination on which way they should move forward.

    Solutions from other teams included things like radar jamming, signal jamming, various versions of attack drones with nets, net guns, net throwing remote-controlled cars, the use of radars and lasers as well as a high-pressure water cannon for shooting drones out of the sky.

    “It's been exciting to see teams of six to eight people who didn't know each other six months ago come together and develop a counter UAS system," said Lt. Col. James Damato a judge and a member of the Force Protection Office at Hanscom. "This is a very dynamic and complex problem to tackle in such a short amount of time, and each team was able to not only develop the concept but build a system that has had some level of success."

    After several days of setup, briefings, testing and finally demonstrating their solutions, two individuals from each team were selected by their peers as Outstanding Performers. Those selected individuals include:

    Wright-Patterson Air Force Base:
    2nd Lt. David Feibus
    1st Lt David Beargie

    Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base:
    Staff Sgt. Michael Ingold
    Nick Vandeusen

    Robins Air Force Base:
    1st Lt. Tyler Wallis
    1st Lt. Casey Kleisinger

    Tinker Air Force Base:
    Megan Marshall
    Tyler Moudy

    Kirtland Air Force Base:
    Staff Sgt. Kyle Lawrence
    Scott Kratochvil

    Hanscom Air Force Base:
    Capt. Chris Giacomo
    Derek Stanley

    While these twelve stood out from the pack, for the first time in the history of the competition, it ended in tie, with both Wright-Patterson and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland awarded the coveted trophy and yearly bragging rights. The awards were presented at a banquet hosted by Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., AFRL Commander.

    “Thanks for stepping up, working hard and taking on this challenge," said McMurry. "I think you will be able to move forward with a developed sense of confidence of what you can do, and what you are capable of when placed in difficult situations."

    If there is one thing though that each member of the challenge could agree on, it was that they were happy to have had the chance to be involved, and would encourage others to do the same next year.

    “I'm really happy I was selected to be a part of this program,” said Beargie. “I would encourage anyone thinking about doing this next year to apply. You won’t regret it.”



    Date Taken: 12.15.2016
    Date Posted: 12.15.2016 00:52
    Story ID: 217741
    Location: LAS VEGAS, NV, US 

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