Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OHIO –
The Department of the Air Force’s innovative engine, AFWERX, announced the release of its Autonomy Prime Request for Information, or RFI, Sept. 9, 2022. AFWERX will formally begin industry-facing research as it prepares to launch a new “Prime” program focused on the collaborative development of autonomy technologies with industry to accelerate military adoption.
The program will follow the philosophy of Agility Prime: collaborative risk reduction across the industry to accelerate the development and implementation of emerging technologies critical to national security.
Autonomy Prime, while still in its formative stages, will focus on rapid autonomy testing and transition capability or “proving ground,” which will seek to remove roadblocks that prevent rapid, affordable and iterative testing of autonomy in aircraft, as well as potentially spacecraft and ground vehicles. The program plans to introduce challenges focused on key technology gaps identified by AFWERX. Companies will then execute demonstrations or tests at the proving ground to compete for funding and subsequent acquisition opportunities, which could allow them to transition into Air Force field capabilities. The proving ground will include the physical locations where the Department of the Air Force executes tests along with digital twins incorporating modeling and simulation work.
“As the Department of the Air Force looks to increase autonomy capabilities, we need a robust process to access, test, iterate and mature autonomy technologies with industry to programs of record,” said Lt. Col. Tom Meagher, AFWERX Prime division chief. “We recognize that many of the technical functions for autonomy apply across a large number of Air Force missions and commercial applications. Finding those overlaps and casting a wide net for solutions enables us to identify the most promising capabilities.”
The RFI solicits details about technologies in the broad categories that may improve the capabilities of the test infrastructure at the proving ground, including testbed aircraft, digital engineering, or modeling and simulation. Additionally, the RFI also calls for key identified autonomy technologies ideal for testing and development, such as sensors, communication technologies and software algorithms.
“We want to follow the philosophy in Agility Prime of forging new partnerships to accelerate development of dual use technologies and apply it to one of the primary focus areas of the department in the near future – autonomy,” said Sterling Alley, Prime’s technology transition lead. “Identifying areas of collaboration throughout multiple DOD representatives, government agencies, and industry is critical to ensuring we tackle some of the challenges facing autonomy development, including testing infrastructure and agile processes to support autonomy development, especially for smaller programs or subsystem technologies which can support the larger programs. We want to directly address these challenging barriers through the proving ground.”
Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director, looks forward to the opportunities Autonomy Prime will open for the broader AFWERX organization.
“AFWERX continues to evolve its innovation tools to more effectively connect the technologist, acquirer and warfighter with industry, investment, interagency and international partners for fielded capabilities,” said Diller. “This AFWERX 3.0 nexus will include expansion into other Primes, new approaches for AFVentures, novel integration with operators through Spark and most importantly, synthesis between these tools.”
The Autonomy RFI can be found at https://sam.gov/opp/34d079fa1e5b4a1f8cf09113188205d0/view and will be available until Oct. 31, 2022.
For more information on AFWERX, please visit https://www.afwerx.com/.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.
AFWERX, a program office at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts, AFWERX harnesses internal talent and expands technology, transitioning partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. In 2020, Fast Company ranked AFWERX #16 of Best Workplaces for Innovators, alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon. Additional information is available at: https://www.afwerx.com/.