Step onto an elevator beside Martin Drake, U.S. Central Command’s chief science and technology advisor, and one might be surprised to hear him deliver to perfect strangers an unclassified tutorial he calls “Science and Technology 101.”
Army Pfc. David Diaz ollects a DNA sample for biometrics from an Afghan man at a security checkpoint in Afghanistan’s Khost province. Central Command’s Science and Technology Division has been a major advocate of the technologies used for biometric identification and battlefield forensics to support deployed warfighters. (photo provided by U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Trumbull)
The impromptu briefing completed, Drake is known to cajole his unsuspecting “students” into raising their right hands so he can deputize them as “honorary deputy science advisors for U.S. Central Command.”
“I tell them, ‘It takes a village to be the best and to be able to understand where technology is going,’” said Drake, who runs Centcom’s dozen-member Science and Technology Division. “We can’t do this by ourselves, and we need their help.”
The elevator encounters are just one example of the team’s unrelenting quest to identify better ways to support warfighters in the command’s demanding and complex area of operations.
The office members, an eclectic mix of active-duty forces, military retirees and civilian employees, scour the Internet, professional journals and technology expositions to seek out new and emerging technology-related capabilities.
That boils down to taking gaps and requirements as identified by U.S. forces and partner nations in the theater, converting them into technical requirements, then going out to the science and technology community for solutions.
In a significant advance for military transportation, a new web-based tool sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) brings an Expedia-like search capability to Navy planners looking to move personnel or equipment around the world quickly and in an affordable way.
The Transportation Exploitation Tool (TET) is software that allows transportation planners to easily find available space among the thousands of military and commercial flights, and ship movements, that take place each day. In so doing, it enables supplies or personnel to get to a destination in the quickest, most efficient way possible—and provides the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard significant cost savings at the same time.
The new system has already saved the naval services more than $30 million in transportation costs to date, even in limited use, officials say. When fully implemented, savings estimates range to over $200 million over 10 years.
“This system is truly revolutionary,” said Bob Smith, program manager at ONR. “TET uses advances in technology to provide outstanding optimization of available flights and ship routes, saving our logisticians enormous amounts of time—and that can literally mean saving lives.”
An example of how TET works:
Imagine a scenario where a U.S. Navy ship in a foreign port urgently needs a particular engine part to complete its mission. TET allows the user to simply enter what cargo needs to be shipped and where it’s going, and then provides the planner with all available space on transports across military and commercial sectors, with recommendations for the most efficient routes.
A new easy-to-carry water purifier that could give Marines and first-responders access to clean water wherever they go successfully completed its first operational test.
(photo from Naval Research Lab)
Funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and tested this spring during the U.S.-Philippines joint Balikatan military exercise, the First-Response Water Purifier is designed for long-term use in remote areas during emergency and disaster relief operations.
The new purifier was developed to help reduce enormous logistical burdens already faced by forward-deployed personnel. There are two versions—one that can treat 1,000 gallons per day and one that can handle 5,000 gallons per day.
“Expeditionary water involves much more than just purification,” said Cody Reese, logistics manager for ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. “It has a long logistics tail, it is difficult to supply and yet it is one of the most critical basic needs in any type of operation, anywhere in the world.”
The appetite for a trusted source of drinking water has led to a costly habit of buying and transporting bottled water around the battlefield. Likewise, current purification systems are so heavy they have to be transported on Humvees and 7-ton trucks.
The new purifier is light and compact enough to fit in the back of a pickup truck and be carried by just two Marines.
Student-built autonomous underwater vehicles sped through the depths of a Navy pool in a battle for supremacy at the 16th International RoboSub Competition.
(graphic illustration by Jessica L. Tozer)
The competition, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International (AUVSI) Foundation, was held in San Diego at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Systems Center Pacific Transducer Evaluation Center.
Several ONR program officers were at the competition, serving as mentors and judges to the high school and college-age competitors.
“This is one of those science, technology, engineering and mathematics outreach activities that we sponsor that’s very connected to the naval workforce,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons department.
“Our goal is to help students arrive at college prepared for the math, science, electronics, computer and engineering courses that they need to be able to compete at a high level in autonomous vehicle competitions.”
In a race against one another and the clock, robotic boats are battling it out at the 6th International RoboBoat Competition, from July 8th through July 14th.
(graphic illustration by Jessica L. Tozer)
The Office of Naval Research (ONR)-co-sponsored competition will take place on a pond at the Founder’s Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach, Va. The event will feature 15 student teams racing their custom-designed and built boats.
“Our goal is to boost awareness and generate interest for students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] through RoboBoat and similar challenges,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons department.
“This is the best way to provide examples and hands-on experience to those students so that they want to join our workforce or become part of the research community.”
This year’s event has a mission that consists of three sets of tasks-one mandatory and two optional for the opportunity to gain extra points.
The first measures propulsion strength, navigation and speed by passing through a set of gates; the second is accurately navigating a winding channel marked by buoys; and the third involves multiple challenges, including retrieving a ball from a landing zone, activating a sprinkler system, capturing a flag, shooting foam arrows through hoops and playing a high-tech afloat version of rock-paper-scissors.
A long-standing partnership between the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and one of the country’s foremost oceanographers will culminate on June 21 with the launch of a 24-hour “newsroom” to track scientists’ activity aboard research ships and in the field and broadcast their findings to students and teachers around the world.
ONR and Dr. Robert Ballard—best known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic—have teamed up for Exploration Now, an initiative that uses telepresence technologies to provide students, educators and others with live-stream video of research activities and opportunities to interact directly with scientists aboard different vessels in real time.
“It’s a ‘situation room’ for ocean exploration,” said Cmdr. Joseph Cohn, ONR’s deputy director of research for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “The ability to tune in and interact with the crews of U.S. research vessels, no matter where they are, will give an unprecedented number of students and teachers an insider’s view of the important work these scientists are doing.”
A shore-based production team at Ballard’s Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography will provide mission control by coordinating feeds, creating highlight videos, arranging crew interviews and interpreting findings for audiences.
With the arrival of the Atlantic hurricane and Pacific typhoon season-and the often dangerous storms that can accompany it-new technology sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will be used to help Navy and civilian officials alike plan for stormy weather.
(Graphic illustration by Jessica L. Tozer)
Called the Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System-Tropical Cyclone (COAMPS-TC), the groundbreaking new weather prediction model offers forecasters a detailed look at tropical storms and gives accurate predictions of a storm’s intensity from one to five days out.
The new model went fully operational June 6 at the Navy’s Fleet Numerical and Meteorology and Oceanography Center-the naval command that provides meteorological data to U.S. forces.
“COAMPS-TC will be invaluable to Navy leadership,” said Dr. Ronald Ferek, the ONR program officer who helped sponsor the project. “It will give them detailed intensity and wind fields for site-specific damaging wind forecasts: ‘This upcoming storm will exceed hurricane-force winds at X time, for Y hours.’ For naval installations, that kind of forecast is really useful.”