HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – The Air Force Materiel Command recently honored the Aerospace Management Systems Division here with a small business award.
The division received the fiscal year 2021 Outstanding Contributions to the Small Business Specialty Program team award in recognition of its partnerships with small businesses across its portfolio. These efforts supported agile operations through the advancement of cutting edge technologies, including in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, unmanned aircraft systems, quantum computing, cloud technology, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
“I am extremely proud of our team’s efforts in the small business arena,” said Col. Michael Alexander, the division’s senior materiel leader. “We are continually finding ways to innovate solutions and accelerate delivery of meaningful capabilities to our military and allied partners.”
Capt. Andrew Bettinger, the Aerospace Management Systems Division’s Program Execution Group chief, said the team managed more than a dozen Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, efforts and executed tens of millions of dollars in SBIR funds in FY21.
“Leadership within PEO Digital has really embraced the SBIR program,” he said. “We all see tremendous value in utilizing this program to work with non-traditional defense companies that have a lot of the expertise the Department of Defense needs today.”
The award focused primarily on the division’s weather systems and air traffic control and landing systems enterprise small business initiatives and achievements.
“Our weather satellite contract with Tomorrow.io was a really big deal, because it was PEO Digital’s first-ever Strategic Funding Increase, or STRATFI, SBIR award,” Bettinger said. “The team recently completed its critical design and systems requirements reviews and is on track to launch the first of four space-based weather radar satellites in October 2022.”
Another significant accomplishment for the division is its partnership with Intellisense Systems, Inc. and the development of the Precision Automated Instrumented Landing Survey, or PAISLEY, tool. This effort received initial SBIR funding through PEO Digital’s 2019 UAS Pitch Day event. PAISLEY is an automated UAS that calibrates aircraft instrument landing systems.
“This is a big capability that our lead agent is very interested in,” Bettinger said. “It represents a huge cost and time savings over traditional FAA flight checks, which is especially important when you’re operating in hostile environments. It really will be a game changer for agile airfield operations.”
Bettinger said PAISLEY’s sequential Phase II contract kicked off at the beginning of 2022 and that the division also manages several Phase III SBIR efforts.
Sandra Frey, the division’s Chief Developmental Test manager and Innovation lead, said moving a project to a SBIR Phase III is a significant step.
“With a Phase I and a Phase II, you’re using SBIR funds, but with a Phase III, that’s where a sponsor uses their own funds,” she said. “That really shows commitment and that it’s not just a fun exercise.”
Bettinger said receiving AFMC recognition for these initiatives and other collaborative efforts with small businesses means a lot to the division.
“It’s a testament to our division’s willingness to innovate, explore new technologies and partner with small businesses to deliver capabilities to the warfighter faster,” he said. “That’s really what it comes down to when we’re using these small business programs. We’re trying to advance these technologies at a faster rate than we could traditionally and get the capabilities we need to posture for an agile environment in the future.”