Jessica Salinas, Marlene McGraw, and Anna Slominski - high school students mentored by Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) scientists and engineers - brief unmanned systems experts on "Integrating Autonomous Systems in the Pre-College Environment using FIRST Robotics" at the second annual NSWCDD Unmanned Systems Integration Workshop and Technical Exchange Meeting, Aug. 19. They were among students from two robotics teams who provided hands-on robotics demonstrations throughout the day. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization with the mission to design accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. (U.S. Navy photo by Tammy Indseth/Released)
DAHLGREN, Va.—Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Burnett envisioned his career after retiring from the U.S. Army last year - start up a company to rapidly deploy life-saving ideas, solutions and technologies to warfighters.
Like many small business owners and entrepreneurs, however, he encountered a daunting Department of Defense acquisition process that could delay or prevent his vision from becoming reality.
Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Commander Rear Adm. Lorin Selby listened to Burnett, who was among DoD technologists, business executives, and educators who came to share their ideas, technology solutions, and concerns at NSWC Dahlgren Division's second annual Unmanned Systems Integration Workshop and Technical Exchange Meeting, Aug. 19.
"What is the best way to get the technologies that are ready to go into the hands of the warfighter," Burnett asked the admiral. "We have game changing technology now and I'll do it at cost to get the technology into the hands of the warfighter. I've been in their shoes and know what they're going through. We have toolsets that can help them win."
In his keynote speech, Selby inspired 160 scientists, engineers and technologists in DoD, industry, and academia to overcome the challenges they face - including certification, accreditation and acquisition processes - to obtain funding for new technologies that can quickly become a program of record and deployed to the warfighter.
"The idea of coming up with ideas and then transferring those ideas is a huge part of the future, and as a nation, I think we can do it faster and better than anyone else," said Selby. "We need to establish more collaborative partnerships. We will never solve these problems in stovepipes, so we've got to be more collaborative and more team oriented. Collaboration is what it's all about."
The technical exchange, which included panel discussions, harnessed the power of intensive collaboration among the joint services, industry and academia.
"Our society is very open and sharing," said Selby. "We're very willing in our society to put ideas out there and that's very powerful. Some are going to shoot holes in them while others will say, 'that's a good idea, I will use it'. That's powerful."
In all, 25 unmanned systems experts from the public and private sector presented 20 briefs and two panel discussions. Robotics teams from two local high schools also demonstrated their science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects.
"Integration of unmanned systems continues to be a challenge for the Navy, and judging by the cross-organizational participation at this workshop, it seems to be a challenge for everyone else as well," said Ajoy 'AJ' Muralidhar, NSWCDD Human Systems Integration engineer and the event's lead organizer. "New technology and capabilities are introduced every day and we constantly have to evolve and adapt our approaches in order to ensure that we are able to provide the best options for the warfighting community."
The briefing titles - speaking volumes about new approaches and options - included: Autonomous Weapons and Proportionality; Perception for Unmanned Systems; Multinational Capability Development Campaign; Situation Awareness and Decision Support within Unmanned Systems; Simulation Methods for Unmanned Surface Vehicles for Software Development and Sensor Simulation; Marine Corps Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate; and Mechanisms for Lifelong Learning in Autonomous Systems: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
"The workshop was a unique collaboration for unmanned and autonomous technology development," said Harry Dreany, technical direction agent for the U.S. Marine Corps Maneuver Science and Technology Program, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. "Nowhere else in the Navy are these types of discussions being held with as much depth and breadth across the DoD, industry and academia. The large number of Ph.D.s and experts in attendance made a considerable contribution to technical interchange that occurred with the presenters and panel members during and after the presentations. This allowed researchers like myself to see other possible approaches to technical problems that we might not have thought of within our own organizations."
Dreany joined four unmanned systems experts from the Navy and the Army to discuss, "Weaponization of Tactical Unmanned Surface and Ground Platforms - an Integration Perspective".
As a presenter, the NSWCDD scientist briefed his research findings on, "Safety Engineering of Computational Cognitive Architecture within Unmanned Systems".
The objective of his research is to build a dynamic changing model to evaluate a cognitive architecture's ability to ensure safe performance of an autonomous safety-critical system. Results will provide cognitive science researchers with a comparison of safety engineering among multiple cognitive research paradigms.
"The workshop was a great opportunity for me to share and discuss my research with experts in the field of autonomy and unmanned technology," said Dreany. "Cognitive development within artificial intelligence is a difficult and complex problem. Safety engineering is a large part of my research and I had directional changing discussions with other engineers on the development of safety measurements, mechanisms and methodologies for cognitive development. These conversations would not have happened without this workshop."
The unmanned systems integration workshop - one of several ongoing NSWCDD initiatives to foster collaboration and cooperation between government, industry and academia - was sponsored by NSWCDD Chief Technology Office and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (Tactical Warfare Systems, Land Warfare and Munitions, Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise).
"It was a true workforce development opportunity," said Muralidhar. "The volunteers, session chairs and coordinators, as well as the organizing committee were all junior engineers who impacted the event with fresh ideas and perspectives on unmanned systems integration".
NSWCDD, a Naval Sea Systems Command warfare center division, is a premier research and development center that serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration. The command's unique ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex warfighting systems is based on its longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.