Dugway Proving Ground is celebrating the completion of the first — and very successful — Technology Experimentation and Characterization Field Trials (TECFT). A new two-grid system, an experienced and hardworking DPG team, and favorable weather all came together to produce a worthwhile and productive event for participants.
“We conducted 140 trials during the two-week event,” said Adam Drochner, West Desert Test Center (WDTC) test officer, who was the DPG TECFT lead. “A new two-grid system was developed for outdoor testing; there was one grid to conduct biological trials and a separate grid to conduct chemical trials. This new setup was very efficient and allowed for nearly double the number of field trials than was executed during past events.”
Built on the success of previous S/K Challenge events conducted at Dugway Proving Ground, TECFT allows cost-effective testing of chemical and biological detection technologies. This year’s two-week event kicked off on Sept. 27, 2020, and took place in the Joint Ambient Breeze Tunnel and the Active Standoff Chamber the first week and then moved to outdoor field testing at Target S for the second week of trials.
Speaking to the DPG test team and participants during the nightly safety briefing near the end of week two, Col. Scott Gould, Commander of Dugway Proving Ground, expressed his satisfaction. “We’ve had good trials and good results. Most importantly, we are moving these technologies forward and that’s what this is all about.”
TECFT’s success didn’t come easy. COVID-19 impacts included a four-month delay, and even with a later start date, some registered teams still canceled because of travel or safety restrictions. Some of the teams that did come had to limit their number of attendees. Despite these challenges, seven teams, including one private industry and six government agencies, participated. More Department of Defense (DoD) programs participated this year than previously.
One of the participating DoD programs was the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEOCBRND), which brought its CBRN Sensors Integration on Robotic Platforms (CSIRP) technology to TECFT, a “rapid prototyping and fielding effort focused on miniaturizing and integrating modular CBRN sensor solutions,” according to a program publication.
When asked about the value of TECFT for testing their technologies, a member of the CSIRP test team responded, “We’re getting some data that we’ve never seen before.” Each TECFT participant collected their own data, comparing it against the WDTC test referee system for accuracy.
The WDTC test referee system relies on multiple technologies to provide a digital picture of the simulant agent clouds, and near real-time monitoring data, so test teams know what their detection technology should be seeing. Said another test team member who came to TECFT to improve their detector's algorithms, "This has been a good learning experience for us."
Drochner said making TECFT a success was a team effort. “I want to thank everyone involved in TECFT for making it a successful event,” he said. “It takes a lot of people to make this happen and make it beneficial for the participants.”
TECFT will return to Dugway Proving Ground and the West Desert Test Center in 2022 and could, under the direction of the Deputy Undersecretary of the Army for Test and Evaluation, be expanded to support additional areas of interest such as protection and decontamination.