WASHINGTON – SPACEDRIP, an international small business that won second place in the U.S. Army xTech Program’s xTechInternational 2022 competition, has developed a technology to address one of the most pressing global issues – water scarcity.
SPACEDRIP’s automated wastewater reuse system garnered the attention of the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Atlantic, which partnered with xTech on the xTechInternational 2022 competition. Alex Jimenez, technical director for DEVCOM Atlantic, and his team recognized the utility of the system and the capability gap it could fill in more extreme environments, leading to the company’s participation in the 2023 African Lion exercise.
During African Lion, U.S. Africa Command’s largest annual joint exercise, U.S. Soldiers train with service members from Morocco, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia and other countries. During this year’s exercise, SPACEDRIP’s wastewater reuse system was used by military personnel from 13 nations.
While the Army originally intended to test SPACEDRIP’s technology in Arctic regions, the African environment provided similarly arid conditions and emphasized the logistical importance and complexity of bringing water to Soldiers. The pivot from one extreme condition to another further underscored the critical need for variations of wastewater reuse systems across all terrain and environmental conditions.
“Water scarcity is one of the biggest problems facing mankind in the next 10 years,” noted Joonatan Oras, co-founder and CEO of SPACEDRIP. “The only solution to tackle water scarcity is to start reusing water — that applies to both the civilian and defense sectors.”
SPACEDRIP and their water-reuse technology began in Estonia with a simple, personal need: to bring useable water to a home not connected to a municipal water system. From its beginning in Estonia, SPACEDRIP’s technology is now being tested on a worldwide scale to solve water scarcity — from Africa to the U.S. and beyond.
The system streamlines wastewater reuse into a single portable container that includes an automated system to track and monitor the safety of the water. The automated system uses a closed-loop motion to purify water for irrigation, toilet flushing, laundry, showers and potable taps.
Most significantly, SPACEDRIP’s technology combines water treatment and recycling technologies with its own modern sensors, automation and software, making it both efficient and cost-effective while ensuring the water produced is always pure. Its systems for the Army are containerized and can be rapidly deployed to off-grid locations where water transportation is dangerous or costly.
xTech’s $50,000 in prize money proved immensely beneficial to SPACEDRIP’s development of a system container that met the requirements for the technology’s use in the exercise and beyond.
“We had the SPACEDRIP containers on one of the forward operating camps located in the Sahara Desert, and of course it got a lot of heavy use from all of the Soldiers and a lot of positive reviews,” Jimenez said. “The Soldiers actually chose to use the SPACEDRIP facilities rather than the standard ones there.”
“From xTech we received input on how we can engage with different stakeholders in the Army, so now we have a sense of orientation on how to interact with the right people in addition to the benefit of connections with the right people in the Army,” Oras said.
Since their participation in xTech and African Lion, SPACEDRIP has expanded its company footprint and international reach, with systems in several African countries. Jimenez also noted the huge potential for testing SPACEDRIP’s technology in the Arctic region. The company is currently continuing its systems tests with the U.S. Army DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center.
“We’re currently tackling the water scarcity and sanitation problem in Africa and other developing countries,” Oras said. “xTech certainly helped us boost both our business line with the Army and the private sector.”
Jimenez noted that by looking internationally for solutions to U.S. Army problems, the Army gains a new perspective on its capability gaps by seeing them through the lens of other countries and cultures. By considering local perspectives on relevant technological needs, the Army is in turn better able to find creative solutions to meet its critical objectives.
Established in 2018, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and nontraditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army.
Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DoD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtech.army.mil/.