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Field Experimentation

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NPS Field Experimentation

 

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Background

 

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Field Experimentation (FX) Program exists to:

1 - Provide an opportunity for NPS faculty and students to develop and test new technologies related to their research in an operational field environment, and

2 - Provide the operational community the opportunity to utilize and experiment with these technologies.

 

Since 2002, NPS FX events have been conducted such that maximum innovation and collaboration are encouraged between DoD, government agencies, industry, universities, and in which Special Operations Forces (SOF), National Guard, and first responder participation and feedback are utilized for effectiveness, affordability, and feasibility of new technologies.

 

Building on these successes, the Joint Interagency Field Experimentation Program (JIFX) began in 2012 under the sponsorship of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of Homeland security. JIFX events are held quarterly, normally at NPS facilities on the California National Guard's Camp Roberts. The purpose of JIFX is to provide a field experimentation resource for the Unified Combatant Commands (COCOMs) and other federal agencies. In addition, State, local and international emergency management, disaster response and humanitarian assistance organizations are most welcome to help create an innovative cooperative learning environment.

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Fundamental Tenets

NPS Field Experimentation is designed with specific attributes in mind that create a unique collaborative environment. Our fundamental tenets:

Austere by Design

We provide the basics: space to work, an airstrip, bathrooms, and basic communications infrastructure. It's up to you to bring everything else you need.

Collaboration is Expected

Collaboration often results in unexpected and positive results. You are required to collaborate within your ability. (Proprietary, CLASSIFIED, ITARS, EARS, etc. information provide the only exceptions.)

Bounded, Not Controlled

We create a safe, secure, and legal sandbox in which products grow and new ideas flourish.

Inclusive by Default

Everyone is welcome to apply to the event; good ideas come from everywhere.

Develop. Now.

We are immediate. We do not put off development until next week. We expect development activity at the event, in real time.

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JIFX in the News

From the California desert to desolate polar ice caps, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) continues to adapt emerging technologies to new domains.

Since 2002, NPS’ quarterly Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) program, and its predecessors, have brought together leading minds from academia, industry and the military to explore new technologies, and new ways existing technologies might prove beneficial in other applications ...  often with surprising results.

“We like to think of this event as a tech-oriented ‘Burning Man’ for government,” said Dr. Ray Buettner, JIFX director and associate professor of Information Sciences at NPS. “It’s a collaborative learning environment with minimal rules where producers can get direct feedback from their consumers.”

JIFX is not about acquisition, Buettner emphasized. Rather, the event offers a chance to sandbox these systems in a pseudo-operational field environment at Camp Roberts, an austere California National Guard base in central California.

 

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On the afternoon of June 4, the Martin UAV “V-BAT”, a state-of-the art VTOL Fixed Wing UAV, launched from McMillan Field at U.S. Army Base, Camp Roberts in a flight test to demonstrate its calculated service ceiling. Twenty-five minutes later, V-BAT descended after easily reaching the upper limit of the restricted air space and its calculated service ceiling of 15,000 feet. 

After landing and a rapid payload change to an 8 lb. turret, the V-BAT was refueled and relaunched in less than an hour. The second flight was performed at a more tactical altitude and demonstrated the V-BAT’s capability of integrated flight with an Avwatch tracking antenna, successfully conducting ISR missions at ranges in excess of 50 miles.

Phillip Jones, Martin UAV’s Chief Operating Officer and former RAF fighter pilot said, “With these milestones, V-BAT has demonstrated all of the key performance parameters we set for it two years ago. The focus for the engineering team will now shift to enhancing and refining these capabilities to even better meet & exceed warfighter requirements.”

Both tests were performed as a part of the Naval Post Graduate School’s Joint Interagency Field Experiment 18-3 (JIFX), an event that provides government, industry and academic innovators the opportunity to collaborate and experiment with new technologies.

 

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Aerial dogfighting began more than a century ago in the skies over Europe with propeller-driven fighter aircraft carried aloft on wings of fabric and wood. An event held recently in southern California could mark the beginning of a new chapter in this form of aerial combat.

In what may have been the first aerial encounter of its kind, researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Naval Postgraduate School recently pitted two swarms of autonomous aircraft against one another over a military test facility. While the friendly encounter may not have qualified as an old-fashioned dogfight, it provided the first example of a live engagement between two swarms of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), and allowed the two teams to demonstrate different combat tactics in flight.

 

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WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc. demonstrated their flagship product, the DroneFox, to a range of U.S. military leaders during the Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) program from July 31 to August 4, 2017. The U. S. Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental’s (DIUx) Rogue Squadron used the “red teaming” method to test the product’s capabilities in an operational field environment against “red” (terrorist) drones.

The DroneFox allows soldiers to focus on their missions and know that the sky above is safe from “flying IEDs.” It is the only system that allows operators to perform a threat assessment of drones while whitelisting “friendly drones.”

 

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A jammer-hunting UAV employs a radio frequency (RF) detection system and a navigation control scheme. The RF detection component uses a directional antenna and the unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV’s) ability to rotate to determine a bearing to the jammer. The navigation control scheme selects a trajectory for making bearing measurements that enable rapid jammer localization, based on three bearing calculation methods: max, cross-correlation, and a modification of max leveraging the shape of the antenna’s main lobe, known as max3.

Whether malicious or unintentional, GPS jamming events have already proven to disrupt airports and pose an increased risk to commercial aviation in the future. An important mitigation for this risk is the ability to rapidly locate and interdict the GPS jamming device.

The system must be capable of reliably determining jamming direction and quickly localizing the source in the semi-urban environments typically found in and around airports. This article examines both aspects.

In developing a localization algorithm, the measurements being made by the system can greatly impact performance. Using a directional antenna as the primary sensor, our multirotor platform Jammer Acquisition with GPS Exploration & Reconnaissance (JAGER) can measure the bearing to the jammer, which is the main input into the localization algorithm. Here we examine three different bearing calculation techniques from a gain pattern: max, cross-correlation and max3.

 

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Latitude Engineering has conducted over 15 test flights of HQ-60B aircraft in the last month on two different airframes. The aircraft is the final version of the HQ-60 platform, which is designed for 12lbs of payload and > 15 hours of endurance. Two fuel injected engines are being evaluated for reliability and fuel economy during the first phase of testing and the vehicles are proving their relability and capability in high winds during fully autonomous launch and recovery.

 

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JIFX Highlight Video

Martin UAV LLC, a San Jose, California based designer and fabricator of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) recently participated in the 2016 Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) event at Camp Roberts, California, at the invitation of the United States Naval Post Graduate School.  The company’s flagship vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the “V-BAT”, conducted operational flights from a remotely confined area as well as a prepared runway at the United States Army’s test range.

The Martin V-BAT is the first aircraft of its size and capability to successfully demonstrate the ability to takeoff vertically, transition to wing-borne flight like a sail-plane, and land from a hover   The V-Bat is capable of hovering over select locations along a pre-programmed flight path before returning to land vertically in a concealed and confined area.  The V-BAT has achieved the critical operational benchmark of vertical take-off and landing without the assistance of any launch or recovery equipment, making it unique in the UAS marketplace today.

 

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High impact and high visibility disasters have increasingly revealed the proliferation and widespread use of mobile devices, social media, photos, videos, and other sensory data and channels as information sources. This information can be helpful in planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergencies. The amount and speed of available information, however, in addition to a lack in ability to identify, verify, aggregate, coordinate, and contextualize information gleaned from social media, leaves data often unused and un-actionable.

To address technology gaps across a variety of disciplines, including information sharing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, in partnership with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Naval Postgraduate School, hosts the Joint Interagency Field Exploration (JIFX). Each quarter, JIFX participants utilize different methods of interaction, all of which focus on end user input, which reflects and address the most complex challenges identified by those directly engaged in homeland defense and security. JIFX 2014-2, held at Camp Roberts, Ca., February 10-13, offered participants an opportunity to participate in an experiment looking at the usefulness of social media and data to address agency mission objectives and pre-existing information requirements to achieve enhanced situational awareness and decision support.

 

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JIFX History

In January 2003, NPS FX was combined with another master's thesis to create a cooperative field experimentation effort with U. S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Science & Technology (S&T) and J9 Knowledge & Futures (SOKF) divisions. The experimentation event was named STAN (Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network) in memory of CWO2 Stanley Harriman, USA, who was killed by USAF AC-130 friendly fire in Afghanistan on 2 March 2002. STAN was conceived by Defense Analysis master's students CWO2 Christopher E. Manuel, USA, Maj Haspard R. Murphy, Jr., USAF, and Maj Kenneth A. Paxton, USAF, and was documented in their 2004 restricted distribution thesis titled The Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network (STAN).

STAN Field Experimentation

The thesis focused on the "integration of a tetherless transmit/receive link[s] between soldiers, tactical vehicles, ground sensors, manned and unmanned platforms to push/pull secure voice, data, and video to USSOCOM components" (p. V). Their thesis began as a joint interdisciplinary project between the NPS DA Department, chaired by Dr. Gordon McCormick, Dean of Research Dr. David Netzer, Dr. Alex Bordetsky, the Information Sciences Department, and included several professors from multiple academic disciplines. STAN's initial experimental efforts focused on developing both the first Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) prototype as well as the associated Surveillance and Target Acquisition Network (STAN) necessary to link all relevant assets in the tactical environment. To accomplish this task, a multi-disciplinary team of NPS research faculty and over thirty thesis students were formed to generate ideas and solutions. The NPS team focused on the tactical network development and monitoring for each experiment. Military units and a contractor team were integrated with NPS to assist in requirements determination and to produce prototypes for experimentation. Seven STAN experiments were conducted from July 2003 to August 2004 at locations that included: the Center for Independently Remotely Piloted Airship Studies (CIRPAS) at McMillan Airfield; Camp Roberts CA ANG base; the CIRPAS facility at Marina Municipal Airport (KOAR); the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) facility at Fort Ord, CA; Monterey Bay; NPS; and Reno, NV.

Although STAN experimentation events came to a close in August 2004, FX continued under the name Tactical Network Topology (TNT) and the first event, TNT 05-1, was held at Camp Roberts on November 2004. STAN ultimately transitioned into USSOCOM programs MAI and JTCITS and the founding STAN officers Manuel, Murphy, and Paxton graduated NPS in December that year. Their thesis lived on and TNT continued advancing the knowledge, research, and organizational relationships developed from the successful STAN experiments. In August 2005 (TNT 05-4) USSOCOM SOKF-J9 took the lead from S&T and TNT began to explore a wider range of technologies.

CDTEMS funding gradually declined. In 2005, NPS submitted a Field Experimentation Program for Special Operations (FEPSO) congressional funding proposal to US Congressman Sam Farr's office requesting support for this now dedicated NPS-USSCOCOM cooperative field experimentation venture. FEPSO funding was received in FY06 and continued through FY10, accounting for 22% of TNT funding. Additionally, OSD's Office of Force Transformation (OFT) funded some TNT research (FY06 through FY08) until its eventual discontinuation in 2006.

The transition from STAN to TNT also brought more involvement from the USSOCOM Component Commands. The goal was to focus on identifying key gaps and deficiencies that could be addressed by the application of advanced technology, particularly network communications, unmanned systems, and net-centric applications. Promising technologies were typically evalulated and their capabilities iterated across several TNT's. Around this same time the NPS Information Sciences Department established the Center for Network Innovation and Experimentation (CENETIX), directed by Dr. Alex Bordetsky. CENETIX emerged from the experimental knowledge gained from STAN's network research emphasis. CENETIX subsequently became the lead agent for integrating, testing, and managing all of the TNT network related experiment activities. Dr. Bordetsky also assumed the lead for directing TNT's Maritime interdiction operations (MIO) experiments and biomedical related experimentation.

In the years following STAN, TNT branched out into several operationally diverse experimental venues. While Camp Roberts remained the predominant experimentation hub, TNT events were also held four times at Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR), FL and once at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC), IN. Other locations were often integrated with the Camp Roberts TNT event. These locations included: Fort Hunter-Liggett, Camp Dawson, WV; National Response Events, WV; Camp Atterbury, IN; John C. Stennis Space Center, MS; Fort Ord (MOUT); CA, Marina Municipal Airport (KAOR), CA; NPS and the Monterey Bay, CA; San Clemente Island, CA; and Fort Eustis, VA. MIO experiments were also conducted at Alameda Island and Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco; New York and New Jersey Harbors; and European locations, including Germany, Sweden, and Greece.

Many internal organizational changes occurred at SOCOM over the years and management and oversight of TNT shifted from SORDAC (Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center) S&T (Experimentation) to SOKF-J9 (Experimentation), back to S&T, and ultimately back to SORDAC S&T in 2011 with a de-emphasis on operational experimentation. Dr. Dave Netzer retired from NPS after 40 years of civil service in 2009. Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. became the NPS FX director in 2009 (TNT 09-2) until the final TNT event in June of 2013. The table below highlights the key personnel changes and associated event dates.

Events Dates USSOCOM Lead(s) NPS FX Director
STAN 1:TNT 05-3 Jul 2002 - May 2005 SORDAC S&T) Exp. Lead: Mr. Erik Syvrud; Mr. John Klopfenstein Dr. Dave E. Netzer
TNT 05-4 - TNT 06-4 Aug 2005 - Aug 2006 (SOKF J-9) LCDR Gordon A. "Gordo" Cross, USN; (SOAL Advanced Tech. Directorate) Ibid.
TNT 07-1 - TNT 08-4 Oct 2006 - Aug 2007 (SOKF J-9) LCDR Dave "Chilly" Culpepper, USN; LtCol Mark Brinkman, USMC (TNT 07-1 only) Ibid.
TNT 09-1 - TNT 09-3 Nov 2008 - May 2009 LtCol Thomas "Bike" Beikirch, USMC Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. (TNT 09-2, Feb 2009)
TNT 09-4 - TNT 11-2 Aug 2009 - Feb 2011 (S&T) Mr. William (Bill) Hellemn Ibid.
TNT 11-3 - TNT 12-1 May 2011 - Nov 2011 (SORDAC S&T) Ms. Margaret M. McCaskey Ibid.
TNT 12-2 - TNT 13-3 Feb 2012 - Jun 2013 (SORDAC S&T) Mr. Gabriel Lifschitz Ibid

reliefIn 2007, NPS and USSOCOM began examining dual-use capabilities for homeland security, stabilization, reconstruction, and Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief (HADR). These new mission sets were integrated into the TNT field experiments starting with TNT 07-3. In 2009 (TNT 09-2), Dr. Linton Wells II, then the Transformation Chair for the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at National Defense University (NDU) integrated NDU's humanitarian research into the TNT experiment venue. Dr. Wells also coordinated (STAR-TIDES), short for Sustainable Technologies Accelerated Research-Transportable Infrastructures for Development and Emergency Support. As TNT began to integrate HADR missions and other federal agencies saw value in this focus area (i.e. OSD, Homeland Defense (HD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a new research thread was formalized and termed RELIEF (Research and Experimentation for Local and International Emergency and First Responders).

reliefRELIEF was created to address the most complex challenges identified by those most directly engaged in disaster relief. RELIEF brought together humanitarian practitioners, technology developers, federal civilians, and active duty military personnel together for hands-on collaboration. Successful events focused on crowd sourcing video techniques with Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and FEMA incident support teams; products from those events were immediately put to action in the nation's response to Hurricane Sandy. Since 2009, thirteen RELIEF focused events were conducted in a multi-institutional field setting, providing a semi-structured learning environment capable of promoting collaboration and relationship building across an increasingly diverse governmental and civilian response network.

STAN and ultimately TNT, forged a unique socio-technical ecosystem--consisting of industry, academia, the joint services, governmental/non governmental agencies, first responders all focused on the S&T needs of the warfighter. As TNT matured and acquired a variety of research sponsors and activities, the knowledge gained through participating in the venue expanded to benefit not only the sponsors but all of the participants as well. Dr. Raymond R. Buettner, Jr. became the FX director in February 2009. Recognizing that TNT had evolved into an Informing System, he aptly coined the TNT model a Multi-Institutional Semi- Structured Learning Environment (MISSLE) where participants assumed the roles as both clients and informers. TNT and RELIEF were in essence channels of communication that focused attention on client problems and informer capabilities but also created the environment for ad hoc experimentation and innovation.

Building on the highly successful SOCOM-NPS collaborative field research model, the Joint Interagency Field Experimentation Program (JIFX) was created in 2012 (JIFX 12-2). JIFX was conceived out of the desire to provide a field experimentation resource for all of the unified combatant commands and federal agencies with an informing system capable of addressing their unique S&T gaps. In addition, state, local and international emergency management, disaster response and humanitarian assistance organizations participate in JIFX helping to create an innovative cooperative learning environment. JIFX is sponsored by OSD's Joint Operations Support (JOS) Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics (AT&L) and the DHS.

Unmanned systems (air, ground, and sea) research and experimentation has been integral to the NPS FX program since the early STAN days. In addition to a few industry and government contracted UAS experimentation, the Navy Fleet Composite Squadron (VC) 6 supported all STAN and several TNT's with their Tern UAS until being deactivated in Aug 2008. TERN accommodated the integration of several ad hoc payloads in support of STAN objectives. The NPS center for autonomous vehicle research (CAVR) predates FX and was established in 1987. CAVR Aeries autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), SeaFox unmanned surface vehicles (USV), and Scan Eagle, Rascal, Zephyr, Unicorn, and various quad-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have routinely participated in STAN, TNT, and JIFX.

In Feb 2011, the Under Secretary of the Navy (UNSECNAV) provided NPS the authorization to establish the Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER). CRUSER's main objective is "to shape education, research, concept generation and experimentation in maritime applications of robotics, automation, and unmanned systems and provide a DoD-wide community of interest to exchange research and experimentation results" (UNSECNAV). CRUSER is directed by Dr. Ray Buettner and Dr.Timothy Chung (Deputy Dir.) CRUSER field experimentation is now integrated into the collaborative JIFX environment.

The USSOCOM-NPS field experiment cooperative program continued for 11 years and generated $28.2M of reimbursable research until ultimately coming to a close in June 2013. JIFX continues to be scheduled quarterly and has now replaced TNT & RELIEF as the sole NPS field experimentation venue.