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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Imagine yourself planning a mission to insert a team of warfighters into hostile territory via helicopter. Unfortunately, you don't know the exact weather conditions at the target site and are relying on regional forecasts. Planning based on weather assumptions means that you may select a sub-optimal landing site, misjudge your window of opportunity, and even overlook a better infiltration method. Ignorance of weather conditions is a real threat and an assumed risk to mission success.
Every year, lives are lost in helicopter accidents due to unforecasted or unobserved weather conditions. There is a clear need for accurate weather information in planning and executing military operations. The Micro Weather Sensor (MWS) will enable accurate weather forecasting in areas of operation at 10% the cost and 1% the size of current tactical weather monitoring systems. The MWS is capable of being employed by air in any location around the globe.
Better and more localized weather information is needed to ensure safe movement for soldiers by air and for planning operations. Current tactical weather systems are too expensive $250,000, too heavy 250lbs, and require specially trained operators to assemble and deploy them. Due to the difficulty and expense of deployment, weather monitoring equipment can only be selectively deployed resulting in lack of battlespace weather data with sufficient fidelity to enable decisionmaking. Existing weather surveillance systems require an hour of installation and require hard wired power and data connections in order to operate. They are also extremely large and impossible to conceal and are generally used within the confines of a Forward Operating Base or secured location.
Physical Optics Corporation (POC) developed a completely new weather sensing platform using a range of novel sensing technologies, a new physical topology, and advanced micro-integration. Based on our background and knowledge of sensor systems, electronics, optics, and manufacturing, we were able to achieve more features in a 1lb design than existing systems do in 250lbs.
"The MWS is a game-changer in the weather sensing business. " — Hoover Hodge
By replacing the large, expensive, and outdated tactical and portable weather stations used by the Department of Defense, the MWS will result in dramatic cost savings. It will provide better weather coverage in remote areas and can be quickly deployed, which will enhance our information superiority and ultimately save lives. The large and complete feature set that makes these advancements possible includes: • Total weight of roughly one pound; small enough to be easily hand carried • Simple, single-switch operation and 1 min total setup time • Easy mounting using all-purpose 1/4-20 threaded mount • Ultra-low-power operation • 90 day operational field life • Automatic solar recharging and battery management • Graceful shutdown and startup in low-solar conditions • Global Iridium satellite communications capability • Remote control of three user-settable modes: continuous, hourly, and 3 hour • Operates and maintains communications under snow accumulation • Built-in GPS to determine position and elevation • Magnetic compass for self-orientation • 3-axis accelerometer for determination of tip, tilt, and tampering • Human-readable weather data output • Panoramic imaging • Expansion port for additional capabilities, like Chemical, Radiological and Acoustic sensors.
The MWS provides a valuable surveillance and weather monitoring capability to the soldier to provide safer use of aircraft in theatre by being provided with accurate weather information and low-visibility conditions. And with the eventual potential of air emplacement capability, sensors can be deployed without having to put them in harm’s way.
The development of the MWS has had a significant impact on POC in maintaining and expanding our engineering staff and has created an opportunity to further extend the MWS capabilities into other applications such as acoustic listening and surveillance. The MWS is anticipated to create an entire division at POC and potentially a spin off company focused on weather sensing technologies, all derived from this SBIR project.
The current tactical weather systems used by the US military are manufactured overseas so the development of MWS creates a direct US product to improve upon and compete with these foreign products.
The remote and air employment of a tactical sensor like the MWS has now created new requirements from various user communities to provide additional sensing capabilities, like chemical and radiological and acoustic sensing. Additionally, an enhanced capability for providing wind speed and direction sensing above the sensor is also needed for air delivery and parachute operations.
Physical Optics Corporation is a systems integrator of advanced technology serving the military, defense, security and commercial markets. Since it’s founding in 1985, the company has grown to a $50M company with 235 employees, that includes 85 engineers and 55 Ph.D.s. POC is a highly innovative sma
Micro Weather Sensor Basic Enhancements
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