WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 3, 2014) -- This week at Fort Benning, Georgia, defense contractors are competing to provide the latest technologies to defeat IEDs.

The Joint IED Defeat Organization partnered with the Army Research Lab and the Maneuver Battle Lab, at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, to host a "Culvert Denial Challenge," which began Sept. 29, and runs until Oct. 10.

Ten teams are doing a surveillance challenge, and 10 are doing an inspection challenge, according to Matthew Way, a JIEDDO program integrator.

For the surveillance challenge, vendors make use of unmanned systems, micro-radar technologies, seismic sensors, and hyperspectral imaging. They are monitoring a culvert for an eight-hour period that encompasses day, evening and night hours.

"Once we've secured a culvert, we wanted technology that can maintain security over that area," Way said. "The competition really focuses on their ability to distinguish, per the solicitation, between nefarious activity and something that is benign -- just regular patterns of life."

Vendors in the inspection challenge are demonstrating potential solutions using quadcopters, ground robots, canines, and electromagnetic sensors. They are tasked with various scenarios such as difficult terrain, night inspection, and a long culvert that challenges communication links.

"We are really measuring how quickly they can get into a culvert area and tell me if it's clear or not clear," he said. "The second component that we are scoring them on is, once they've done that, how accurately can they identify particular items that may be threats in the region."

The bottom line is to protect the warfighter, Way said.

"We are confident that by doing this challenge we're going to find some technology that will either improve upon current systems or can be added or provide new capability to culvert IED problems," he said.

This challenge-based acquisition project promotes innovation, Way said, as vendors demonstrate their capabilities as they vie to work under an existing $49.5 million contract.

JIEDDO will decide its next step after the competition is complete and evaluations have been made, Way said.

He estimated a decision could be made approximately 30 days after the competition. At that time, JIEDDO could decide to move quickly on a technology, or even seek out improvements in a certain technology, he said. "We anticipate definitely moving on something, we plan to continue working this through 2015."

The surveillance teams are: Advanced Recon Corp, Applied Research Associates, A-T Solutions, CyPhy Works, EFW (Elbit), L-3 Communications, Niitek, Primal Innovation, QinetiQ, and Roboteam.

The inspection teams are: Applied Research Associates, ATSC, iRobot, K2 Solutions, Lockheed Martin, Pearson Engineering, QinetiQ, Roboteam, Science and Engineering Services, and Stolar Research.

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