NATICK, Mass. -- On January 11, 2019, the Combat Capabilities Development Command -- Soldier Center's Advanced Soldier Mission Equipment & Systems Branch, or ME&SB, Advanced Soldier & Small unit Equipment Team, or ASSET, kicked off an agreement utilizing an "Other Transaction Authority," or OTA, with Boston Engineering located in Waltham, Mass.

The OTA is a product improvement project that will improve upon the first-generation Wind Tunnel -- Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS, prototype testing apparatus designed for PEO-Soldier in 2017-18.

"With the advancements in UAS platforms, we needed a quick and effective way of testing," said John Paul Kruszewski, Sr., UAS engineer and systems engineer for Product Manager Soldier Maneuver Systems. "The wind tunnel allows developers and the acquisition community the ability to evaluate system performance envelopes quickly and cheaply."

"It's with great pride we have a chance to engineer and deliver the second-generation system," said Mark Smithers, chief technology officer for Boston Engineering. "Projects like this give us the opportunity to deliver a new and unproven capability to address technical gaps and advance our warfighting advantage."

"Our team embraces the unique opportunity to improve the system, add a training component using Augmented Reality and further our partnership with the CCDC Soldier Center," Smithers added.

CCDC -- Soldier Center currently supports PEO-Soldier with conducting advanced concept development and engineering support in small unit intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technology areas.

The team works with government and industry partners to mature systems/sub-systems and transition them to applicable program managers. The OTA with Boston Engineering will allow for the improved product design to incorporate an augmented reality course allowing personnel to be easily trained to set up, assemble, troubleshoot, maintain and disassemble the device more effectively.

CCDC -- Soldier Center's David Audet is in discussions with Dr. Melissa Flagg, lead for the Army Research Laboratory Northeast, to co-fund the project and house the testing apparatus at the ARL- Northeast campus located in Burlington, Mass.

This project will be the first collaborative venture of this kind for ME&SB, ASSET and ARL-Northeast, a partnership that clearly supports the Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, or SL-CFT, priorities, acquisition community, and operator training goals and objectives.

The wind tunnel project is a follow on to the first concept designed by Boston Engineering in 2018. Kruszewski worked on the Soldier-Borne Sensor program to develop small unmanned aerial and Soldier-borne sensors for situational awareness that could be rapidly deployed by a Soldier from tactical positions to reduce exposure to potential threat fires and improve the viewable area outside the unaided line of sight.

ASSET, understanding a technical gap in testing, worked with PEO-Soldier to design a new concept. High risk, but the payoff is high if successful and is worth the investment.

"We certainly went through an interesting learning curve with the first unit," said Jose Vazquez, director for Defense and Homeland Security, Boston Engineering. "That first-generation prototype allowed for us to learn from experience and incorporate new efficiencies into this second-generation, which will improve the operator and engineering core training by adding the augmented reality experience."

The wind tunnel project is expected to be completed by the end of the fiscal year. ASSET anticipates delivering the system to ARL-Northeast/Northeastern Campus upon completion.