SOFWERX ThunderDrone RPE II: C-SUAS

SOFWERX is part of USSOCOM’s efforts to combat a growing concern with counter unmanned aircraft systems. From the http://www.sofwerx.org/ website: “Under agreement with USSOCOM, the Doolittle Institute implemented SOFWERX as a public facing intermediary to assist with collaboration, innovation, prototyping and exploration with industry, labs and academic partners. SOFWERX currently has three facilities, 1) a ~35,000 sf facility design for a range of collaborative efforts and rapid prototyping, 2) a ~10,000 sf facility designed for collaboration, innovation, and modest rapid prototyping, 3) and a 4,000-square foot garage designed for rapid prototyping with modest collaboration and innovation capabilities. All are located in Tampa, Florida.”

The event had around 250 – 300 people attend from various sized companies from major defense companies to 1 person sized startups. Presentations from the warfighters gave them a chance to tell their stories. One resource to attendees was the Q&A session with the warfighters that began on the first day, which was an opportunity to discuss the problems that warfighters have using CUAS equipment down range. However, in countermeasures, it is difficult to educate people and not give away anything the enemy might be able to use as information that could be potentially used against them.

SOFWERX has a “Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) is an agreement between the government and an intermediary organization such as state and local governmental agencies and nonprofit entities operated by or on behalf of a state or local government to perform partnership intermediary services.” (from website) “The Doolittle Institute was incorporated in the state of Florida as a non-profit corporation in July 2012. The Doolittle family granted approval to use the general’s name through a memorandum of agreement in early 2012. An application for federal tax-exemption status was filed in August 2012 and Section501(c)3 exemption was received on February 2013.”

Q&A Interview of LT Phillip Chitty (PAO) SOFWORX’s Public Affairs Officer

On the second and final day of the tech expo sUAS News sat down with LT Phillip Chitty (PAO) SOFWORX’s Public Affairs Officer.

Readers of sUAS News wanted to know how does the ecosystem work at SOFWERX?

Phillip explained “SOFWERX’s ecosystem is a great equalizer because anyone can join who has a capability or technology that would be interesting and compelling, also joining the ecosystem is free.” Phillip reiterates that “SOFWERX created an even playing field because the best solutions come from people who may not be traditionally linked to entities who regularly work with USSOCOM.” Phillip added that “SOFWERX gives everyone an even playing field which is unique Boeing and Lockheed had the same size table (booth) as a startup at the event.”

Why choose Ybor City instead of a military base?

SOFWERX is in the community and not on a military base to give access to everyone and tear down some of the traditional barriers to acquisition” said Phillip. “Here in Ybor City we created a win-win situation for people who are part of the ecosystem, they know that they can help shape the battle space for the SOF warfighters or any branch warfighter who choose to adopt technology, there are unlimited opportunities between others in the ecosystem, it is free and an asset to the community.

Who provides the solutions or facilitates those?

“Solutions can come from someone that doesn’t know how to work with DOD and the creation of a collaborative platform in an ecosystem and cyberspace to work together to harvest the best solutions in the hopes of putting into the hands of the warfighter.”

How do you communicate with participants to create solutions?

“It is one thing to create a feedback loop, but when there is direct feedback between the operator and innovator, it is an amazing experience and SOFWERX is operator focused,” Phillip remarked. The equal playing field and openness of sharing information that will impact the warfighters was key to the whole event. The event was unique to witness, “we bring great minds together from the military, the local area and out of state to collaborate and create” said Phillip.

The facilities were an open space and environment for many as Phillip called them “collisions” to take place or spontaneous interactions between people with complimentary technologies, to occur. Their facility for demonstrations is around 8,000 square feet in the ThunderDrone room to support demonstrations and another facility that is a few blocks away which was smaller, but moved here to support ThunderDrone project. The large open space and separate office spaces are conducive to the SOFWERX aim. When asked, attendees said that this was “a very successful event and great idea to create a platform that is an equal playing field for all.” Keep your eyes on SOFWERX as they are leading the pack in CUAS innovation in the CUAS community.

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