A Glimpse into an AFWERX Challenge

To stay ahead of our adversaries, we can no longer rely on just a few large companies to solve Air Force problem sets.

Instead, our approach here at AFWERX, is to crowdsource a nation’s worth of talent and ideas to ensure that the best possible solutions reach the warfighter and in turn, ensure our national security.
— Colby Edwards, Deputy Director of AFWERX Vegas

Recently, AFWERX the Air Force’s program dedicated to solving some of the toughest problems it faces via collaborations between the nation’s top entrepreneurs, industry experts, academic professionals, and non-traditional contributors — asked for innovators to submit components, materials, or technologies that could specifically improve the USAF Fixed Wing Helmet, the legacy helmet used by its pilots and aircrew that was created all the way back in the 1970’s.

And on November 14th, from the thirty-eight solution providers it chose from the 100+ submitted were featured as part of a grand exhibition at Enclave Las Vegas. Here’s a video that gives you a glimpse inside this challenge, demonstrating how our new approach brings innovators and airmen to the table in new ways.

Taking on all aspects of the USAF Helmet, these finalists from around the country and across the globe proposed ideas that ran the gamut of awe-inspiring innovation. The following day, the most promising teams that had solutions most closely alined to Air Force objectives were invited for follow-ups at the AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub to discuss further prototyping that would further develop solutions that could ultimately lead to a contract with the Air Force worth millions.

“It’s not only exciting but very impressive what we’ve been able to accomplish over a span of 20 weeks. We have been able to reach many non-traditional defense companies, that until now have been unresponsive to traditional market research methods. Now, thanks to AFWERX, we have emerging technologies at our fingertips, ready to integrate into systems for our warfighters. We are executing our leadership's rapid-prototyping direction and ‘bringing the future faster’—exciting times ahead!” says Air Force 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, Aircrew Performance Program Manager.

Ultimately, full-helmet solution providers as well as companies providing component part solutions were selected to continue their work, in hopes of submitting prototypes for further development to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center on or before May 15th, 2019.

“It is amazing to see the diversity of ideas and innovative solutions from both non-traditional companies and those who are well-established in this industry,” says Colby Edwards, Deputy Director AFWERX Vegas Innovation Hub.

From here, AFWERX will start to turn its attention to its other upcoming challenges, including their “Advanced Microelectronics Design & Prototype Challenge,” which seeks Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) and System on a Chip (SoC) solutions using advanced process technology nodes, and their Mixed Reality Platform Challenge, which aims to develop a next-gen platform for training and operations.

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