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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Defense Innovation Unit Publishes ‘Responsible AI Guidelines’

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

The Defense Innovation Unit released its initial “Responsible AI Guidelines” document Nov. 15, with intent to operationalize the Defense Department’s ethical principles of artificial intelligence into its commercial prototyping and acquisition efforts.

“DIU’s RAI guidelines provide a step-by-step framework for AI companies, DOD stakeholders and program managers that can help to ensure that AI programs are built with the principles of fairness, accountability and transparency at each step in the development cycle of an AI system,” Jared Dunnmon, PhD, technical director of the artificial intelligence/machine learning portfolio at DIU said.

The DIU team has spent the last 18 months working with researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, and speaking with industry partners, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, academia and government officials, and testing these guidelines in order to solicit helpful feedback, Dunnmon said. They are intended specifically for use on DIU programs.

The aim of the guidelines, he said is to:

? Accelerate programs from the outset by clarifying end goals, alignment of expectations, and acknowledgment of risks and trade-offs.

? Increase confidence that AI systems are developed, tested, and vetted with the highest standards of fairness, accountability and transparency.

? Support changes in the way AI technologies are evaluated, selected, prototyped and adopted in order to avoid potential bad outcomes.

? Elicit questions and conversations that are crucial for AI project success.

The guidelines provide examples of how responsible AI considerations can be put into practice in real-world programs, in an effort to create a user-friendly and more easily understood document that expedites the process, Dunnmon said.

“Users want so they can trust and verify that their tools protect American interests without compromising our collective values,” John Stockton, co-founder of Quantifind, a software technology company, that provided DIU feedback on the guidelines during their prototype project said. “These guidelines show promise for actually accelerating technology adoption, as it helps identify and get ahead of potentially show-stopping issues. We’ve found that leaning into this effort has also served us well outside of government, by strengthening internal controls and producing transparency and patterns of trust that can also be leveraged with all users, both public and private.”

To view the guidelines, visit: www.diu.mil/responsible-ai-guidelines.

DARPA’s Gremlins Program Demonstrates Airborne Recovery

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Successful Fourth Deployment Results in Airborne Recovery of Gremlins Air Vehicle to C-130

An unmanned air vehicle demonstrated successful airborne recovery during the DARPA Gremlins program’s latest flight test deployment last month. During the deployment, two X-61 Gremlin Air Vehicles (GAV) successfully validated all autonomous formation flying positions and safety features before one GAV ultimately demonstrated airborne recovery to a C-130.

“This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery,” said Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, program manager for Gremlins in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations.”

During the final experiment, the team refurbished an X-61 vehicle and conducted a second flight within 24 working-hours. In addition, many hours of data were collected over four flights including air vehicle performance, aerodynamic interactions between the recovery bullet and GAV, and contact dynamics for airborne retrieval. Unfortunately, one GAV was destroyed during the flight tests.

“Airborne recovery is complex,” said Calhoun. “We will take some time to enjoy the success of this deployment, then get back to work further analyzing the data and determining next steps for the Gremlins technology.”

Safe, effective, and reliable air recoveries promise to dramatically expand the range and potential uses of unmanned air vehicles in conflict situations. The GAVs can be equipped with a variety of sensors and other mission-specific payloads. They can also be launched from various types of military aircraft, keeping manned platforms safely beyond the range of adversary defenses. After air retrieval, the GAVs can be refurbished by ground crews to prepare them for another mission within 24 hours.

Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is developing the Gremlin vehicles.

– DARPA

US Army R&D Energizes Battery Charging for Soldiers

Monday, November 8th, 2021

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Army researchers are exploring new ways to keep Soldiers’ electronic devices powered during extended missions by using wearable fuel cells for on-the-move battery charging.

As the Army continues to modernize the force with high-tech Soldier-worn and handheld equipment like radios, GPS, night-vision devices and weapons, the energy demand is continually increasing.

Engineers are working on optimizing the power density and efficiency of emerging fuel-cell based power generation technology when operated with packaged fuels as well as commonly available substitutes such as windshield washer fluid.

Army Futures Command (AFC) is leading work on the Soldier Wearable Power Generator (SWPG) that enables on-the-move charging, thus reducing the number of batteries required to be carried.

“We’re aiming to deliver a simple, easy-to-use way for Soldiers to extend battery life and keep moving in the field by developing wearable fuel cells,” said Shailesh Shah, a chemical engineer with the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center — a component of AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM). “Enabling fuel cell operation on windshield washer fluid already in the Army’s supply chain avoids the need to set up a logistics re-supply of custom fuels. The SWPG simultaneously reduces dependence on logistics for battery re-supply.”

The C5ISR Center’s research aligns with the Army’s renewed emphasis and interest in fuel-cell power generation for supplying power to dismounted Soldiers, according to Shah. Technology in the industry has improved significantly in the past 10 years in terms of size, weight, noise, thermal signature reduction, improved modularity and mounting systems.

Adding wearable fuel cells to the Soldier system enables users to charge the currently fielded thin, flexible Conformal Wearable Battery (CWB) worn on vests as a central power source for electronic devices. The fuel-cell research complements the C5ISR Center’s concurrent work to modernize the CWB with advanced materials.

Researchers are continuing SWPG design modifications to improve performance of the prototypes with an emphasis on size and weight reductions, according to Christopher Hurley, chief of the Center’s Tactical Power Branch. Soldiers on 72-hour missions could save 12 pounds in battery weight under normal power draws with current prototypes.

Additional organizations providing support are the Army’s Project Manager Integrated Visual Augmentation System, DEVCOM Soldier Center, the FBI and the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment.

“A key to enhancing our fuel-cell development is placing different prototypes in the hands of Soldiers during field exercises,” Hurley said. “C5ISR Center engineers have been side-by-side with Soldiers to gain feedback during the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment in 2020 and 2021 with plans for 2022. The Soldier touch points are an invaluable resource in our development process so we can immediately turn around and incorporate their evaluations into our hardware systems.”

By Dan Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs

The Air Force Partners with Twelve, Proves it’s Possible to Make Jet Fuel Out of Thin Air

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —  

What if you could access fuel from anywhere on the planet, at any time, no tanker required? The Air Force thinks it’s possible with ground-breaking carbon transformation technology.

Separate from carbon capture and storage or carbon utilization, carbon transformation can turn carbon dioxide from the air into nearly any chemical, material, or fuel, including jet fuel.

In 2020, Air Force Operational Energy endorsed the carbon transformation company, Twelve, to launch a pilot program to demonstrate that their proprietary technology could convert CO2 into operationally viable aviation fuel called E-Jet.

The project hit a major milestone in August of this year when Twelve successfully produced jet fuel from CO2, proving the process worked and setting up the conditions to create the synthetic carbon-neutral fuel in larger quantities. The first phase of the project is scheduled to conclude in December with a report detailing the process and findings.

For the Air Force, the implications of this innovation could be profound. Initial testing shows that the system is highly deployable and scalable, enabling the warfighter to access synthetic fuel from anywhere in the world. Reliable access to energy and fuel is paramount to military operations. Recent joint wargaming and operational exercises have underlined the significant risk that transporting, storing, and delivering fuel poses to troops – both at home and abroad.

At the height of the war in Afghanistan, attacks on fuel and water convoys accounted for more than 30% of casualties. Yet, fuel demand is only expected to increase as advanced weapon systems and operations require increasing levels of power.

“History has taught us that our logistics supply chains are one of the first things the enemy attacks. As peer-adversaries pose more and more of a threat, what we do to reduce our fuel and logistics demand will be critical to avoid risk and win any potential war,” said Roberto Guerrero, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for operational energy.

Currently, the Department of the Air Force relies on commercial fuel to operate, both domestically and abroad. The Air Force must use a combination of trucks, aircraft, and ships to ensure fuel is delivered to meet warfighter demand. However, many areas of operation cannot always easily reach traditional access points of the supply chain, particularly during conflict.

Twelve’s carbon transformation platform could allow deployed units to create fuel on demand, without the need for highly skilled fuel experts on site. The Air Force sees the opportunity for the technology to provide a supplemental source to petroleum-based fuels to decrease demand in areas that are typically difficult to deliver fuel to.

“With carbon transformation, we are untethering aviation from petroleum supply chains. The Air Force has been a strong partner in our work to advance innovative new sources of aviation fuel,” said Nicholas Flanders, Twelve co-founder and CEO.

Most synthetic fuels, which are created by a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen known as syngas, are produced through burning biomass, coal, or natural gas. Twelve’s technology eliminates the need for fossil fuels, producing syngas by recycling CO2 captured from the air and – using only water and renewable power as inputs – transforming the CO2.

The process of converting syngas into liquid hydrocarbon fuels is not new. Known as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, the multistep method was created in the 1920s by German scientists and aided the German war effort during World War II.

Today, it is widely used to produce liquid fuels for transportation. Fischer-Tropsch certified synthetic fuels are approved as a ‘drop-in’ fuel for each specific aircraft, first commercially, and then by the U.S. military and the aircraft’s associated system program office. The highest blend currently certified is a 50/50 blend of FT synthetic fuel and petroleum fuel. Twelve’s system produced FT-Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene, which can be blended with petroleum – up to a maximum blend of 50%.

Once the first phase of the program concludes at the end of 2021, the Air Force Operational Energy office will look to the next phase of scaling the technology to produce synthetic fuel in larger quantities. If brought to scale, the platform would enable more agile operations and decrease dependence on foreign oil, while having the added benefit of mitigating carbon emissions – a Department of Defense key priority under Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III.

While there remain a number of unanswered questions to make this technology operational, such as how to power the production of the syngas in remote areas and where water sources for the necessary hydrogen will come from (Twelve notes that water for the process can also be captured from the air), the team sees this is a positive first step in a truly innovative program.

“My office is looking at a number of initiatives to not only optimize aviation fuel use for improved combat capability, but to reduce the logistics burden as well,” Guerrero said. “We’re excited about the potential of carbon transformation to support this effort and Twelve’s technology – as one of the tools in our toolbox – could help us get there.”

By Corrie Poland, Air Force Operational Energy

AstroAccess Successfully Completes ZERO-G Parabolic flight with Crew of 12 Disability Ambassadors

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

Ambassadors experienced 15 weightless parabolas and tested new designs for accessibility

Ambassador feedback will inform design of future space missions 

Flight seeks to advance disability inclusion in STEM

18 October 2021, Long Beach, CA – AstroAccess, an initiative dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration, and Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) successfully completed a parabolic flight with a crew of 12 ambassadors with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities on Sunday, October 17.

A press conference with representatives of the crew will be livestreamed on Monday, October 18 at 10:00am Pacific time, via the following link: https://bit.ly/3DOn63Z (passcode: ToBoldlyGo)

On Sunday, the ZERO-G aircraft ascended to an altitude of 32,000 feet, at which point the vehicle commenced its parabolic maneuvers. Ambassadors carried out planned demonstrations over the course of 15 arcs, experiencing multiple minutes of weightlessness.

During the flight, the ambassadors conducted demonstrations to understand how space vessels can be made more accessible by design and procedure. These tests included new visual and haptic feedback mechanisms to signify phases of flight, crew uniforms intentionally designed for accessibility, interior customizations to provide instantaneous location and orientation awareness for safety in microgravity, and a variety of other additional scientific and technical demonstrations.

Anna Voelker, Executive Director of SciAccess and Co-Project Lead of AstroAccess, said, “Space removes the barriers between people; now is the time to remove the barriers to space itself.”  They continued, “AstroAccess is sending a message to people who have historically been excluded from STEM that not only is there room for you in space, there is a need for you.”

The mission was supported by a wide range of disability and space organizations, including DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Gallaudet University, the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Space Frontier Foundation, the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Whitesides Foundation. The AstroAccess mission was part of SciAccess and under fiscal sponsorship of Yuri’s Night. A full list of partners is below.

In addition to the 12 ambassadors, onboard the flight were members of several American companies flying crewed spaceflight vehicles.

The mission not only provides valuable insights on the future of spacecraft design, but also seeks to advance disability inclusion in STEM, inspire the next generation of scientists and world-changers, welcome new perspectives into the science community, and demonstrate the benefit of intentional and accessible design in space and here on Earth.

George Whitesides, Co-Project Lead of AstroAccess, said: “Yesterday’s successful flight was an important milestone in our mission to open space for all. The tasks and demonstrations carried out by our ambassadors will have a profound effect on the space industry at large, inform the design of future space vehicles, and pave the way for future astronauts with disabilities.” 

“One characteristic veterans share is the unwavering desire to serve, and it’s an inclination that continues for many once they no longer wear our nation’s uniform,” said Marc Burgess, CEO and national adjutant of DAV. “We’re incredibly grateful to AstroAccess for giving our ambassador CeCe Mazyck the opportunity to contribute to vital research that will integrate disabled veterans and civilians alike into space and benefit the disabled community and humanity for years to come.”

Sina Bahram, Flight 1 AstroAccess Ambassador:

“Floating in microgravity was the truest physical manifestation of pure joy and delight that I have ever felt in my life. I feel this joy because of the visceral nature of the experience, the progress being made by and for people with disabilities, the more inclusive future we are building, and the recognition that such a future will not exist without us.”

astroaccess.org

Aptima Receives USSOCOM Contract for Holistic Sleep Optimization and Remediation Platform

Monday, September 27th, 2021

RESTORE aims to enhance a warfighter’s ability to achieve the restorative effects of sleep through innovative restoration technologies and personalized regimens.

July 28th, 2021—Woburn, MA— Aptima, Inc. announced today that it has received a contract valued at up to $1.29 million from the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), to develop RESTORE: Restorative & Efficient Sleep Technologies for Optimizing Operator Resiliency and Effectiveness, a holistic sleep optimization and remediation platform.

About one-third of a human being’s life is spent sleeping, the need for sleep is an undeniable biological imperative, however, methods for reducing amounts of sleep without long-term negative effects remain elusive.


Sleep issues are prevalent across all the Services, including USSOCOM

Adults need at least six, ideally seven to nine, hours of sleep within a 24-hour period to perform at peak efficiency. Military operations, particularly in the Special Operations Forces (SOF) domain, are unpredictable and do not lend themselves to a tidy 24-hour period. Furthermore, sleep issues can persist after returning home from overseas combat or training deployments, for both SOF and non-SOF personnel.

Aptima and partners at West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, Oura Health Ltd., and Fusion Sport, will develop a holistic sleep optimization and remediation platform that will provide restorative sleep solutions throughout an operator’s entire deployment cycle, through training, recovery, and deployment. RESTORE leverages existing technologies that can optimize or remedy sleep in controlled settings, narrowed down to the three most


Data sources utilized in RESTORE’s personalized sleep recommendation system

effective and practical technologies: the enhancement of slow-wave sleep activity via auditory stimulation, photobiomodulation (PBMT) therapy, and floatation therapy. The platform packages these technologies so that they can be used when they are needed most. RESTORE employs a cyclical sense-assess-augment taxonomy for optimizing human effectiveness. The first sense component of the RESTORE platform is a measurement strategy that collects data on current sleep patterns, including objective measurement techniques such as polysomnography (PSG) for laboratory studies, wearable commercial sleep monitors for applied applications, and subjective measures such as sleep scales and other smartwatch-based survey methods.

The platform intelligently and securely fuses human state assessment data with  enviornmental factors to get a complete picture of the user’s sleep and subsequently deliver tailored sleep recommendations via personalized sleep regimens and cutting-edge, empirically validated technological interventions.

Despite RESTORE being developed to address military needs, Aptima’s Business Development team sees a great deal of potential for RESTORE to address the needs of a wide array of consumers in commercial markets who are prone to sleep disruptions such as collegiate/professional athletics, business travelers, on-call physicians, parents of newborns, etc.…

This article reflects work performed on a SBIR Phase II project entitled, “RESTORE II: Restorative & Efficient Sleep Technologies for Optimizing Operator Resiliency and Effectiveness”, sponsored by the USSOCOM, Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Science and Technology Directorate, whom the authors wish to thank.

For more information about RESTORE, please contact [email protected].

SOFWERX – Department of Energy (DOE) Laboratory Technology Transfer Opportunities for Industry 2.0

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

Next Generation Effects At the Edge
SOFWERX, in collaboration with USSOCOM’s Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) and the United States Department of Energy (DOE), will conduct an event 09-10 November 2021, to connect DOE Laboratories, U.S. Government (USG), and potential collaborators to facilitate licensing and further development of Laboratory technologies to Industry in order to accelerate development of End User capabilities. The goal is to improve awareness and information sharing to identify future opportunities for collaboration as well as identify existing capability gaps, specifically related to Next Generation Effects At the Edge.

Request to Attend NLT 02 November 11:59 PM ET, full details at events.sofwerx.org/doe2

Small, Mighty Robots Mimic the Powerful Punch of Mantis Shrimp

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Robot models the mechanics of the strongest punch in the animal kingdom

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Modeling the mechanics of the strongest punch in the animal kingdom, researchers with U.S. Army funding built a robot that mimics the movement of the mantis shrimp. These pugnacious crustaceans could pave the way for small, but mighty robotic devices for the military.

Researchers at Harvard University and Duke University, published their work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They shed light on the biology of mantis shrimp, whose club-like appendages accelerate faster than a bullet out of a gun. Just one strike can knock the arm off a crab or break through a snail shell. These crustaceans have even taken on an octopus and won.

“The idea of a loaded spring released by a latch is a staple in mechanical design, but the research team cleverly observed that engineers have yet to achieve the same performance out of a Latch-Mediated Spring Actuator that we find in nature,” said Dr. Dean Culver program manager, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory. “By more closely mimicking the geometry of a mantis shrimp’s physiology, the team was able to exceed accelerations produced by limbs in other robotic devices by more than tenfold.”

How mantis shrimp produce these deadly, ultra-fast movements has long fascinated biologists. Recent advancements in high-speed imaging make it possible to see and measure these strikes, but some of the mechanics have not been well understood.

Many small organisms, including frogs, chameleons, and even some kinds of plants, produce ultra-fast movements by storing elastic energy and rapidly releasing it through a latching mechanism, like a mouse trap. In mantis shrimp, two small structures embedded in the tendons of the muscles called sclerites act as the appendage’s latch. In a typical spring-loaded mechanism, once the physical latch is removed, the spring would immediately release the stored energy, but when the sclerites unlatch in a mantis shrimp appendage, there is a short but noticeable delay.

“When you look at the striking process on an ultra-high-speed camera, there is a time delay between when the sclerites release and the appendage fires,” said Nak-seung Hyun, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and co-first author of the paper. “It is as if a mouse triggered a mouse trap, but instead of it snapping right away, there was a noticeable delay before it snapped. There is obviously another mechanism holding the appendage in place, but no one has been able to analytically understand how the other mechanism works.”

Biologists have hypothesized that while the sclerites initiate unlatching, the geometry of the appendage itself acts as a secondary latch, controlling the movement of the arm while it continues to store energy. But this theory had not yet been tested.

The research team tested this hypothesis first by studying the linkage mechanics of the system, then building a physical, robotic model. Once they had the robot, the team was able to develop a mathematical model of the movement. The researchers mapped four distinct phases of the mantis strike, starting with the latched sclerites and ending with the actual strike of the appendage. They found that, indeed, after the sclerites unlatch, geometry of the mechanism takes over, holding the appendage in place until it reaches an over-centering point and then the latch releases.

“This process controls the release of stored elastic energy and actually enhances the mechanical output of the system,” said Emma Steinhardt, a graduate student at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and first author of the paper. “The geometric latching process reveals how organisms generate extremely high acceleration in these short duration movements, like punches.”

The device is faster than any similar devices at the same scale to date.

“This study exemplifies how interdisciplinary collaborations can yield discoveries for multiple fields,” said co-author Dr. Sheila Patek, professor of biology at Duke University. “The process of building a physical model and developing the mathematical model led us to revisit our understanding of mantis shrimp strike mechanics and, more broadly, to discover how organisms and synthetic systems can use geometry to control extreme energy flow during ultra-fast, repeated-use, movements.”

This approach of combining physical and analytical models could help biologists understand and roboticists mimic some of nature’s other extraordinary feats, such as how trap jaw ants snap their jaws so quickly or how frogs propel themselves so high.

“Actuator architecture like this offers impressive capabilities to small and lightweight mechanisms that need to deliver impulsive forces for the Army,” Culver said. “But I think there’s a broader takeaway here – something the engineering community and defense research can keep in mind. We’re not done learning about mechanical performance from nature and biological systems. Things we take for granted, like a simple sprung actuator, are still ripe for further investigation at many scales.”

By U.S. Army DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs