AFWERX Fusion 2020, is the annual flagship event hosted by the United States Air Force. This year’s virtual event brought industry, individual innovators, academia, investors, military and government team members together to discuss the Base of the Future concept. This aligns with a suite of technologies and approaches to base operations we like to call the SmartBase™.
But what exactly does it mean to be a fifth-generation ready Base of the Future?
In short, it’s an opportunity to gain situational awareness across an entire military base in real-time and providing a Common Operating Picture. To increase interoperability across all base systems with analytics, Internet of Things (IOT) and machine learning guided scheduling optimisation.
“The base of the future operating environment benefits from open technology which enables users and managers from all levels to carry-out day-to-day training, while leveraging machine learning to ensure people, resources and operations are optimised.”
As a result:
- Day-to-day base operations are harmonised,
- Crisis situations are reacted and responded to with efficiency,
- Communication and courses of action between functional areas is enhanced and automated.
But perhaps most importantly, human factors affecting personnel wellbeing that would otherwise go unnoticed can be closely modelled and monitored.
Brig. Gen. Patrice A. Melançon, Executive Director of the Tyndall Air Force Base Reconstruction Program Management Office, U.S. Air Force, opened her keynote with examples of how she’s implementing SmartBase™ concepts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and reimagining operations at Tyndall Air Force Base.
One of the key themes that the Base of the future speaks to is resiliency – the ability to mitigate risk, make predictions and respond in a crisis. In her keynote, Brig. Gen. Melançon discussed resiliency as it relates to three areas: Climatic, Energy and Coastal and the use of Smart technologies – in particular building sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to enable a more proactive approach to infrastructure maintenance.
For bases located in coastal regions, hurricanes are a very real threat, being able to mitigate and respond is key.
To respond to dynamic and changing climatic conditions, Tyndall have published installation facility standards that set flood elevations specific to the base, considering wind speeds and specifying material codes that enhance the structural durability of the facilities. They used historic data and rainfall projections as well as industry models predicting sea level rise. Perhaps most impressive is their engagement with industry. Members of the base civil engineer squadron collaborated with Miami County, Florida Building Code and the American Society of Civil Engineers to develop tailored specifications for Tyndall.
The ability to continue to operate independent of the local power supply is another theme Melançon’s team explored.
Many of the utilities the Tyndall have accesses to are privatised, so they worked with the Defence Logistics Agency, Department of Energy and system owners to explore what’s “in the realm of the possible”. Potential solutions include the ability to operate connected or disconnected from the local power supply through the use of microgrids, self-healing grids and alternate energy sources.
Again, Melançon’s team worked closely with U.S. Fish and wildlife service, the EPA, World Wildlife Fund to help restore the coastline and bays that surround Tyndall. The coastline acts as a natural buffer to storms and its conservation speaks to the practical and wholistic approach they are taking.
What’s most impressive here is the willingness of the DOD to collaborate with industry and other government agencies to workshop solutions and use Tyndall as a proving ground for techniques that can be used across coastlines everywhere. Given our geography here in Australia, this is a space well worth watching.
Much of the mechanical, electrical and power equipment on-base already come pre-installed with sensing capability. Brig. Gen. Melançon uses the example of sound sensors that can detect the initial failure of a motor and potentially provide an initial diagnosis to leak detection and facilities or the water distribution system. This sensing technology and reporting allows them to undertake proactive maintenance and extend the useful life of their infrastructure.
This condition based, or predicative maintenance strategy has the potential to reduce overall maintenance costs and the total cost of built infrastructure. Melançon’s team are in the process of establishing a Prototype Installation Resilience Operations centre that will enable Tyndall to roll out this condition-based maintenance strategy.
While sensing technology is fairly mature, its integration into the existing IT network is not. Data aggregation, ingestion into ML systems and cyber security considerations are emergent challenges that we are actively developing solutions for here at Ocean.
As Melançon concludes, the ability to include data from all of their bases and look at trends across a major command, a particular geography or the entire installation is an immanent capability made possible by more agile contracting and procurement methods. This confluence of technologies and forward thinking makes it an exciting time for the sector and one we’re proud to be at the forefront of.
If you’d like to learn more about concepts related to fifth-gen ready bases of the future, or SmartBase™ get in touch with our team today. We’re excited about this suite of technologies and would love to partner with you to realise its potential.
Watch the full keynote “Envisioning and Building a Digitally-Integrated Base of the Future” with Brig. Gen. Melancon and the rest of the excellent content from AFWERX Fusion 2020 here.