JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
Capt. Blake Hege, currently deployed to the Air Force Central Command at Al Udeid, Iraq, and 2nd Lt. Alexander Bow, officer in charge for program development at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, have never worked together yet submitted similar idea solutions to the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Innovation Office as part of its “Call for Innovation” campaign – facility roof inspections.
“Roofs are some of the most expensive infrastructure assets that bases are tasked to maintain,” Hege said. “The current inspections do not produce enough data to accurately forecast and program roof projects. Often times, a tenant unit will inform us of a roof leak; we will then use guess-and-check methods to find the area requiring a repair. Essentially, we are learning of the requirement after the asset has already failed.”
Hege became familiar with the Rapid Airfield Damage Repair process and Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment System when he was stationed with the 673rd Civil Engineering Group at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. He brought that knowledge to JB Charleston, South Carolina, where he teamed with 2nd Lt. Liam Williams of the 628th CES and received a $142,000 estimate from Aeryon Labs on a small unmanned aerial system to identify degrading roofs and inspect areas without the safety hazard of putting engineers on a roof.
JB Charleston’s roof inspection program cost the Air Force about $360,000 during the past year. With the $142,000 investment, the Air Force could increase the effectiveness of these inspections and lower the program cost to about $23,000 annually, translating into approximately $336,000 in savings annually, Hege said.
Bow, meanwhile, took a different approach.
“I was attending the Phoenix Spark Conference at Travis Air Force Base in California and ended up talking with a few civil engineer tech sergeants from Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” Bow said. “They were complaining about how much of a pain physical inspections, and especially roof-inspections, are. They said they were interested in using drones to do the inspections for them. While using drones could be a good path, I began thinking how else we could solve the problem using our existing GIS infrastructure.”
Bow partnered with 1st Lt. Tim Sobieski, readiness and emergency flight commander at JBLM, to submit his idea to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s first HYPERSPACE Challenge, where his idea was chosen to be developed by several start-ups. In November, as part of a week-long pitch competition, a start-up called CrowdAI expressed interest in Bow’s idea and demonstrated that his problem is not only solvable, but scalable and realistic for development.
The “Call for Innovation” campaign received 122 submissions and more than 2,000 online votes. Hege and Bow’s ideas were then combined and chosen as one of eight finalists to advance to AFIMSC’s inaugural “Innovation Rodeo” March 1 in San Antonio.
Competitors with the top three ideas will each receive $200,000 to get their ideas to prototype via AFWERX and tech accelerators.
“Our senior leaders have committed to participating in weeklong events, where it’s all about the Airmen and their ideas,” said Marc Vandeveer, AFIMSC chief innovation officer. “We want to transition those ideas into the innovation ecosystem and AFWERX challenges so we can get those ideas into prototype and then the implementation phase across the I&MS enterprise.”
Hege is confident Williams, Bow and Sobieski can develop a thorough pitch that covers the courses of action in depth.
“Both the JB Charleston and JBLM teams have great solutions to a difficult and expensive problem,” Hege said. “The advances of technology and industry application of said technology will provide more than enough justification to prove the merit of our ideas.”
The other finalists were:
• Installation Access Control of the Future / Artificial Intelligence Facial Recognition, submitted by Lt. Col. Carlos Hernandez, Air Force Security Forces Center, JBSA-Lackland and Col. Jeffrey York, 31st Mission Support Group commander, Aviano AB, Italy. Lt. Col. Jesse Goens, 31st Security Forces Squadron commander at Aviano, will present on behalf of York.
• Virtual Visitor Control Center/ Visitor Kiosk, submitted 2nd Lt. DJ Smith, 502nd Communications Squadron, JBSA-Lackland, Steven Dews, 502nd SFS, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Tech Sgt. Brian Lawley, 802nd SFS, JBSA-Lackland, and Senior Master Sgt. Alvin Arguello, AFSFC.
• “What’s Up” App, submitted by Col. Houston Cantwell, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., who will be accompanied by a USAFA cadet.
• Supply Inventory Management System App, submitted by Master Sgt. Nicole Haun, 87th MSG, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who will be accompanied by two contractors.
• An app to assist in contracting officer representative duties, submitted by Roger Westermeyer, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency enterprise sourcing support director. Lt. Col. Karen Landale, 773rd ESS, will present on behalf of Westermeyer.
• Self-adjusting wide area detection using unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles, submitted by John Shackell, AFSFC.
• Emergency airfield lighting system auxiliary motor upgrade, submitted by Senior Airman Jordan Pitts, 319th CES, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.