SUSTAIN project tasks AFRL, Singaporean scientists to solve complex challenge

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Air Force Research Laboratory recently demonstrated four field positioning and navigation technologies via a collaborative effort with the Singapore Ministry of Defense, Future Systems and Technology Directorate, and Defense Science Organization, along with a handful of Singaporean universities.

The Singapore-United States Tactical All-Inclusive Navigation (SUSTAIN) project is a first-of-its kind cooperation between Singapore’s Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. Specifically, a single team composed of junior scientists from both nations was tasked to collaborate and solve a problem of mutual interest.

During this inaugural year of the project, the team of 9 scientists was challenged to develop tools for warfighters who are facing GPS-degraded or GPS-denied environments. Additionally, the project sought to investigate how international military research can be done as a single team and to build relationships among the junior force military scientists from both countries.

The year-long project culminated with a technology demonstration held at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana. The SUSTAIN team was able to show the technologies they developed that can assist warfighters in geolocation and navigation in areas where GPS is weak or unavailable, possibly through signal jamming or dense jungle. AFRL Commander, Maj. Gen. Robert D. McMurry Jr., and AFRL Executive Director, Doug Ebersole, attended the demonstration and were able to view and interact with the technologies first-hand.

“We developed a series of technology, leveraging existing technology and warfighter gear,” states Dr. John McIntire, engineering research psychologist for AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate and SUSTAIN Team Lead. “All of our solutions can fit in a backpack or in the palm of your hand, and all of it is an innovative and unique approach to the problem, providing something the navigation community hasn’t seen before.”

Frederick Webber, computer engineer also with AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate, developed the software used for the SUSTAIN team’s alternative navigation tools. He feels the first-year project was a large success.

“This project taught the junior scientists about engaging with the warfighter and appropriate subject-matter experts,” reflects Webber. “It also helped us build professional relationships with our peer colleagues from Singapore.”

Results of the project include the filing of six invention disclosures for the innovative technologies developed by the SUSTAIN team. Additionally, scientists from both nations gained experience which will help them direct their efforts back at the lab to be more relevant and applicable to the warfighter. Team members also plan to submit research papers based on their project work to professional journals.

Leadership for SUSTAIN is looking to hold future projects that will task teams with newer challenges, with the possibility of demonstrations rotating between the U.S. and Singapore.