NATICK, Mass. – The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM Soldier Center), the Northeastern University Kostas Research Institute (KRI), and the National Security Innovation Network hosted the U.S. Army Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) Technology Innovation Network Event on Oct. 21−22. The event took place at KRI and most attendees participated virtually.
“Northeastern Kostas Research institute was pleased to host the U.S. Army Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Innovation Network event,” said David Luzzi, senior vice provost for Research and Vice President of the Northeastern University Innovation Campus at Burlington, Mass. “Not only are we home to a state of the art UAS testing facility, this event epitomizes the KRI model of collocated collaboration between government, industry and academia. Events like this also enable industry and academia to align work to meet the specific needs of the warfighter.”
DEVCOM Soldier Center’s Scott Nelson and Mathew Correa planned and coordinated the conference, bringing together all the DEVCOM centers with Army stakeholders, joint services, industry, and academia with expertise in SUAS capability development.
The purpose of the event was to foster collaboration across the innovation ecosystem to leverage expertise and information to generate novel system approaches and potential technology solutions to enable significant capability improvements for Soldiers. The event enabled the SUAS innovation community to contribute to developing technology solutions to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the close combat platoon capabilities in the near- and mid-term timeframes.
“We designed the SUAS technology innovation event to provide a forum allowing a broad set of subject matter experts from across the SUAS community, including concept, requirements writers, scientists, engineers, technology developers, the joint user community, industry, academia and OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) technology accelerators to focus on the critical operational and technical challenges and desired outcomes,” said Nelson. “The common understanding gained through this event enables a path forward to improve collaboration and identification of the best approaches to develop innovative capabilities with a high potential to provide significant contributions to operational effectiveness for our close combat warfighters. We are looking forward to maintaining the momentum and aligning accelerator funding and support to innovative SUAS technology development for our warfighters over the next couple of months.”
“Events like the U.S. Army Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Innovation Network Event – which brought a diverse set of modernization partners together, including universities, companies, program offices and DoD researchers – is exactly what we need to fuel our innovation ecosystem,” said Col. Frank Moore, DEVCOM Soldier Center’s military deputy. “This new SUAS capability will be critical in the MDO battlefield of the future and demands integration of multiple technologies to deliver the effects and overmatch we need. With events like this, we will set the conditions to bring to bear the intellectual capital of the Army Modernization enterprise to get S&T off the lab bench faster and ‘into the dirt’ to learn, refine, and deliver warfighter capability faster.”
Todd E. Rosenberger, deputy director, Army Research Laboratory (ARL), DEVCOM, noted the importance of the event.
"The Army Research Laboratory, as part of DEVCOM, has long recognized the value of engaging both with its key Army stakeholders and the wider Army Modernization Enterprise,” said Rosenberger. “This includes regional connectivity to universities, small businesses and startups, other government agencies, and a host of public-private entities. In keeping with ARL's new mission of operationalizing science for transformational overmatch, the SUAS event gives our researchers direct access to cross service leaders shaping this critical technology space for the Soldier in the future operating environment. As the Army's corporate research laboratory, it offers ARL the chance to push deeper on the art of the possible from collectives of diverse talent and emergent capability from well-informed investments in foundational science."
The event was held in response to General John M. Murray, commanding general, Army Futures Command (AFC), signing the SUAS strategy in September 2020.
According to the strategy, “The SUAS is a small, light, inexpensive unmanned aircraft capability that battalion and subordinate maneuver, maneuver support, and maneuver service and sustainment units employ to accomplish information collection in reconnaissance and other enabling operations. SUASs are inherently cross-domain platforms. This capability currently enables operators to see and understand the battlefield beyond their visual line of sight — providing an organic reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) capability that supports information collection at each echelon. Future endeavors to add the SUAS open payload architecture will increase each echelon’s situational awareness, lethality, and protection. SUASs increase the operational capability of different echelons to conduct cross-domain maneuver, operate semi-independently, integrate R&S operations, and execute command and control.”
Topics discussed at the event included U.S. Army MDO Concepts; U.S. Army SUAS Strategy; Desired Capabilities, Enabling Technologies; Joint Services SUAS efforts; Academic Partner SUAS Research; Experimentation and Demonstration Venues, and an Army Innovation Network Overview. The second day of the event focused on technical panels led by subject matter experts from the U.S. Army, industry, and academia discussing capability development challenges across four key SUAS technology areas, including autonomy, sensor suites and communication, fuselage (materials, designs and manufacturing), and mission/flight endurance.
“The Army will integrate tens of thousands of current and new SUASs into brigade combat teams to ensure overmatch against highly capable, peer enemies,” said Ted Maciuba, deputy director, Robotics Requirements, Maneuver Capabilities Development Integration Directorate, Future Concepts Center, AFC, Fort Benning, Georgia. “This conference brought together government, industry and academia to understand the Army's SUAS strategy, operational justification, and future plans. Industry and academia will be able to develop SUAS technologies for increased situational awareness, lethality, protection, sustainment, and persistence.”
The Soldier Center used MassRobotics – a collective group of Boston engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs – as a valuable resource for the event, with MassRobotics helping to set parameters and providing access to its innovation ecosystem.
“The Soldier Center – along with its partners in industry and academia – plays an important role in the exceptional science and technology environment in Massachusetts,” said John Beatty, executive director of the Massachusetts Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, or MASS-TF. “The U.S. Army Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Innovation Network Event provided an invaluable opportunity for the best minds to come together to discuss the latest advances, as well as to discover opportunities to work together for our nation’s Soldiers.”
About the DEVCOM Soldier Center:
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.