Launch Stories provides warfighters, sponsors, partners, and taxpayers with an inside look at the technologies and research developed by small businesses working with the Air Force.
Sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), this new forum highlights the advanced tools and innovations that drive US competitiveness and make service members safer, better informed, and more efficient than ever. These are their stories.
(If you are interested in partnering with the Air Force to develop a new technology or explore new markets, you can find more information here.)
Congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in 1982 to strengthen the role of smaller businesses in federally-funded research and development. This program stimulates technological innovation, uses small businesses to meet Federal R&D needs, and increases private sector competition, productivity, and economic growth.
The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, a sister program to SBIR, was established by Congress in 1992 to encourage small business partnerships with Universities, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, and qualified non-profit research institutions.
The process for submitting a story is divided into a few easy steps. Estimated time to set aside to write, input, collect support materials and emailing your project information is about four hours.
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Driving down a road in theater, an IED is on everyone's mind, and the last thing anyone wants to encounter. Due to routine Silver Fox patrols, and active IED emplacement hunting, the chances of encountering an IED are markedly reduced.
In 2007, JIEDDO (Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) ramped up deployment of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the troops from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). While the logistics pipelines were filling with these heavily armored vehicles, JIEDDO turned to finding IEDs before they were detonated, and to finding insurgents in the act of emplacing IEDs on convoy routes. One area they turned to was Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems (UASs). The Silver Fox occupied a niche in the tactical UAS arena between the larger, louder planes, and the smaller, less capable electric planes. Virtually silent at operational altitude, and with an 8 hour endurance, the Silver Fox soon made its presence felt. But even with the Electro-Optical (EO) and Infra Red (IR) payloads on board, another method of finding and tracking insurgents was necessary.
SILVER FOX ON THE LAUNCHER, PREPPED FOR FOR LAUNCH
EO/IR GIMBAL IN DEPLOYED POSITION
SILVER FOX IN FLIGHT
The Silver Fox could track targets when they were found, but did not have a method of discovering targets other than to do a visual search of a likely area. Without the latest generation Silver Fox in the area, insurgents have a much better chance of remaining undiscovered. The new Silver Fox merges several existing technologies on a simple, lower unit level UAV. These capabilities are available on larger, higher level UAVs, but this program puts the technologies closer to the warfighters.
In 2012, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) approached Sensintel to improve the Silver Fox that was already deployed with an EO IR sensor. Their idea was to add a Radio Frequency (RF) sensor to create a miniature multi-INT sensor suite. After making the necessary modification to the airframe and the data link to carry the payload and transmit its data, initial test flights were encouraging. After limited optimization, the project was taken into theater so that its impact could be felt immediately.
"Many times, Silver Fox has been the reason for why troops look in a particular spot for IEDs and disarm them in a timely fashion." — Vince Parisi
RF sensors, which have a wide field-of-view, are utilized to cue narrow field-of-view EO/IR sensors, which are traditionally used to perform positive identification of hostile activities. Having both types of payloads one a single aircraft allow this process to happen quickly and better prevent troops from entering dangerous situations.
The Silver Fox provides oversight for Operations, provides Pattern of Life observation, and hunts for insurgents engaged in nefarious activity. It helps the servicemen know what they are getting into when they enter new areas, and helps rid the roads of Improvised Explosive Devices even before they are fully emplaced.
Working with AFRL on the Silver Fox program has helped the company and all its employees up their game to match the harsh requirements of theater deployment. Due to the unforgiving nature of the environment, the Silver Fox itself has had to evolve along with the documentation, logistics, and support.
The Silver Fox seems to slot into a niche in the Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems (UASs) arena. The Silver Fox capabilities have forced other UASs to stretch their capabilities now that this capability has been demonstrated.
It’s comforting to know that the Silver Fox platform has had a significant role in protecting our soldiers while they endeavor to bring stability to these austere and volatile areas. — Chris Troudt, Lead Engineer at Sensintel Inc.
Sensintel is a small business founded in 1989 and has been designing, building, testing, and deploying small UASs since 2000.
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