|Opportunities about for innovators
If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably thought about looking for venture
capital. You may have already gone that route.
But there’s another partner you might look at who will not want to have any control
over your company. It’s the federal government, specifically the Department of
The Doolittle Institute in Fort Walton Beach held a SBIR/STTR Technology Workshop
earlier this month. About 60 participants showed up for the two-day event, where day
two was for one-on-one meetings.
The meeting focused on the Air Force Research Lab’s Munitions Directorate at Eglin
Air Force Base, which develops convention, air-launched munitions technologies for
the U.S. military. Eglin is a major research, development test and evaluation center
for the Air Force, spending as much each year on R&D as some of the major
research universities in the country.
For tech-focused small businesses, there are ample opportunities to develop
technologies and partner with DoD via the Small Business Innovation Research
(SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The idea behind
both programs is to take technologies developed initially for the military and turn
them into commercial products.
One of the ways to start getting involved is to get in touch with the Doolittle Institute. It
serves as a conduit between the Air Force and small businesses. You get a lot more
information on DI by taking a look at a feature story we had in our August 2016
newsletter, “DI: Putting innovation on the fast track.” It starts on page 5.
You can reach them at 850-226-4383. You can also read more at the institute’s
Eglin Air Force Base is just one of the hot spots for innovation where a small
business can find an interesting partner. Over at Stennis Space Center, Miss., there
are also ample opportunities to get involved in the SBIR/STTR programs. In our
February 2017 issue we had a story about a redesigned section of the Stennis
Space Center site designed to make it easier to find the technologies that can be
developed. “The technology goldmine in our midst” starts on page 3.
Since we’re on the subject of high tech and innovation, it’s hard to think of anything
more innovative than drones. They’re ubiquitous, and now they’re coming to the
airport on Dauphin Island in Alabama.
Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory in Starkville and
Alabama’s Mobile County Commission signed a memorandum of understanding that
will allow drones to use the airport for a project involving littoral surveys.
MSU is working with the Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Command at
Stennis Space Center, Miss., on the demonstration project that will use an Outlaw
SeaHunter equipped with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system to measure
water depth in coastal areas too shallow for survey vessels. The demonstration will
be held from mid-May to early June.
Manned aircraft equipped with LIDAR are currently used to survey coastal areas.
The Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise at Stennis
International Airport in Kiln, Miss., performs operations, research and development in
airborne lidar bathymetry in support of coastal mapping and charting requirements
for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Naval Meteorological and Oceanography
Command and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
So why use drones? Let’s face it, there’s a major push to use unmanned system in
every realm now handled by manned systems.
The Gulf Coast region has its share of work in the field. Anyone who follows
aerospace in our region knows work on the Global Hawk and Fire Scout unmanned
aerial systems is done in Moss Point, Miss., and the military bases in the region also
use them in a wide variety of ways.
If you’re interested in the field of robotics, you’re in luck. The Florida Institute for
Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., is a leading research organization
in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics. Its co-founder and CEO, Ken Ford,
will be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in September.
IHMC’s new research facility was dedicated last fall. It features a second floor
observation corridor that allows visitors to see the robotics work being done on the
first floor. You can learn a lot more at the IHMC website
Mississippi out, Alabama in
OK, this one isn’t a Gulf Coast I-10 region aerospace story, but it does illustrate how
fortunes can change, and how one state’s misfortune can be another state’s win.
Well, that is if the Air Force picks one particular company for a big project. And the
folks in Mobile know how that can go. Just ask them about the Air Force tanker
Here’s what I’m talking about. Last year Mississippi was happy indeed that it had
been chosen by Raytheon and partner Leonardo to build training aircraft if the team
won the T-X competition. The plan was to build them in Meridian, at the airport. They
knew that it would only happen if the Leonardo-Raytheon bid won.
But it fell apart even before that when the Leonardo-Raytheon partnership went
Now Leonardo is back in the competition with its T-100 trainer, and should the
company win the aircraft will be built in Tuskegee, Ala. Upward of $200 million will be
spent on construction including buildings, infrastructure and equipment, according to
a joint news release from the governor's office and Leonardo.
This trainer is based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, currently operated by the air
forces of Italy, Israel, Singapore and Poland. Alenia Aermacchi became part of
Finmeccanica in 2016, a major company that was rebranded Leonardo in 2017.
The Alabama plant will perform structural sub-assembly, integration, final assembly
and conduct research and testing at the site, according to the release. Leonardo
would lease a new facility built by a public-private partnership; the total investment in
buildings, infrastructure and equipment would exceed $200 million. Plans call for
creating 750 jobs over 10 years.
But don’t forget the if. It still has to win the competition to replace the Air Force’s T-38
The Navy brass is tackling the issue raised by a lot of its T-45C instructors, vowing to
get to the bottom of the safety issue.
Pilots at three training bases, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Naval Air Station
Meridian, Miss., and Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas, have complained about
physiological episodes, believed to be caused by problems with the oxygen system.
Late last month about 40 percent of training flights at the three bases were canceled
because of the concern. The pilots, in fact, are expected to raise issues like this.
The Navy currently has 197 of the two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable
Goshawks based at the three bases.
This all made me think about the hypoxia-like symptoms a dozen Air Force F-22
pilots experienced back in 2012. The Air Force made two changes, one to the
pressure garment that was inflating at times when it was not supposed to. The other
change was removing a canister filter from the oxygen delivery system.
The Air Force trains F-22 pilots at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and also has an
operation squadron there.
Not your average globe
The Department of Defense's newest weather training aid is called Science on a
Sphere, a 48-inch carbon fiber globe suspended from the ceiling of a room at the
335th Training Squadron’s Weather Training Complex at Keesler Air Force Base,
It uses computers with high-end graphic cards and video projectors to display data
onto the globe. Developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
as an education tool, it helps illustrate earth weather science through animations of
atmospheric storms, climate change and ocean temperatures. The globe doesn't
move, but gives that illusion.
Instructors for Weather Initial Skills and Weather Officer Courses use the system as a
tool to help students gain an enhanced understanding of fundamental atmospheric
and oceanographic processes.
I had the great privilege of being aboard an AC-130 gunship for a training flight many
years ago, and among other things got to witness the absolutely awesome firepower
of this unique weapon system of Air Force Special Operations. How can you not be
impressed by a flying 105mm howitzer?
The AC-130 I was in also had Gatling guns that can fire thousands of rounds a
minute as the aircraft circles its target, and Bofors cannon. Armament has changed
from model to model, including giving it stand-off capability. Throughout the years,
troops on the ground have been quite happy when an AC-130 joins a fight.
Now the Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., plans to install and test
lasers on its AC-130 gunships within a year. That’s according to Lt. Gen. Brad Webb,
head of AFSOC.
General Atomics and other companies have been spending their own research and
development money on the capability. Webb said AFSOC hasn’t decided where the
laser would go. The tests will help determine that, as well as which mix of weapons is
Whatever they come up with, this workhorse will continue to be one of the most lethal
weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Of that I’m certain.
Training center opens
The CAE Dothan Training Center has officially opened at Dothan Regional Airport in
Alabama. It's designed to provide fixed-wing flight training to the Army, Air Force and
CAE is responsible for providing all the training required for experienced rotary-wing
aviators transitioning to fly the services fleet of more than 350 fixed-wing aircraft.
More than 600 Army and Air Force pilots will be trained annually. The center is 10
miles from Fort Rucker.