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Academia, Industry Partnerships Advance Capabilities at Latest JIFX

Once again, NPS advances its partnerships with military, academic and private sector organizations during the university’s Joint Interagency Field Experimentation (JIFX) program. At the latest event, more than 200 leading technology experts converged at the NPS Field Laboratory in Camp Roberts, Calif., to test and evaluate emerging technologies across a host of DOD-relevant domains.

Exercising its strong partnerships with military, academia and the private sector, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted more than 230 leading technology experts to test and evaluate solutions to 21st century challenges during its Joint Interagency Field Experimentation 19-4 (JIFX) event, Aug. 5-9.

Experts from private industry, government agencies and top universities converged at the NPS Field Laboratory, located at the California National Guard’s Camp Roberts, to explore new ways to adapt rapidly changing technologies to a host of DOD-relevant domains, including autonomy/machine learning, autonomous systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and command and control systems.

Over the week-long event, the participants conducted various field experiments to research ways both emerging and existing technologies might be adapted to meet military requirements. For example, teams using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were able to experiment with those systems completing 67 total sorties unencumbered by FAA regulatory frameworks.

According to Dr. Ray Buettner, JIFX director and NPS associate professor of Information Sciences,
JIFX is a unique partnership event in the sense that it is not about immediate acquisition. Instead, it’s about learning fast, he says, helping to identify commercial and laboratory capabilities that may be transitioned to military applications.

“JIFX creates a multi-institutional, semi-structured learning environment for collaboration across the different communities – academic, military and commercial,” said Buettner.  “The hope is that we help industry connect to a better starting point into the acquisition process, while at the same time we build up our understanding of where the cutting-edge capabilities are so we can rapidly respond to the technology requirement of the force.”

The important benefits of JIFX manifest in multitudes of ways, Buettner says, such as opening doors for new technologies that have a direct impact on the warfighter. In Nov. 2015 at JIFX 16-1, for example, a private sector company introduced a small personal reconnaissance system that sparked interest among DOD stakeholders. Less than four years later, the system is in operation providing enhanced situational awareness for warfighters.

“Through JIFX, we get greater exposure to our government customer community and deep, open feedback from government stakeholders,” noted Dave Merrill, Co-Founder and CEO of Elroy Air, a small Silicon Valley-based UAS/autonomous logistics startup currently in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NPS. “The continuous experimentation and on-site work happening throughout [the event] makes for a productive way to get to know government stakeholders without time pressure and without being ‘on the record’ in the way that a phone call or a more formal meeting would entail.”

The experimentation, innovation and collaboration with industry that occurs at JIFX are just a few of the many examples of how NPS is answering the call of Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer to leverage partnerships across government, industry and educational institutions, as well as contributing to emerging fields critical to national defense.


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