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Inaugural Tech Op Helps Industry Reps Explore Military Applications of 5G

Dr. Vlad Dobrokhodov addresses industry representatives about proposed uses for 5G technology in unmanned vehicles in NPS’ Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research during the university’s first Tech Op event highlighting the theme, “Taking 5G to the Edge,” Oct. 24.

In an effort to explore opportunities for collaboration in emerging technologies, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted its inaugural Tech Op event, Oct. 24. Billed, “Taking 5G to the Edge,” the university welcomed representatives from 13 American industry companies onto campus to examine the implications of 5G technology on defense, and demonstrate current NPS capabilities.

Founded by the NPS Alumni Association and Foundation, Tech Op is a response to guidance set forth by Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, urging NPS to increase opportunities to collaborate with industry. Focusing the inaugural theme on 5G technology allowed NPS and industry representatives, such as Amazon Web Services, SAAB USA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, AT&T and other aerospace and communications companies, to explore the realm of possibilities and test the boundaries of 5G, all for the benefit of the whole military force.

According to NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, Tech Op represents a strategic intersection where NPS and private sector industry can methodically engage and collaborate toward advancing technology in an era of great power competition.

“NPS and the Monterey Peninsula is at a very important strategic inflection point for our nation,” said Rondeau in her opening remarks of the event. “With all the business and research entities along the West Coast, as well as the privilege of having both industry and the local community visiting NPS, we can be part of collaborative work, and help drive local development that brings us together. We know how to do this, and we know it will have an impact on our national security.”

The industry representatives toured the campus including the Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research lab, the Modeling, Virtual Environments Simulation Institute, and Information Technology and Communications Services (ITACS).

“The 5G network has the potential to change the nature of how we operate all the way to the soldier on the front line,” said Navy Capt. Ed McCabe, the NPS Air Warfare Chair and a coordinator of Tech Op. “The research that’s going on in the industry could be similar to what NPS is working on, and collaboration between NPS and industry could be the next step for our research in these particular areas.”

SAAB Program Manager Stephen Benson, currently working with the Littoral Operations Center at NPS, explained that many in the private sector understand where critical thinking is being done and they seek out those places to come and solve problems.

“It’s nice to see this outreach to industry is occurring,” said Benson. “There is an array of people in private industries who understand where the best and brightest critical thinkers are from the fleet and the force. Folks are coming here to solve real current problems, and industry can work with them on those problems.”

More than just showing how 5G could improve capabilities between drones, or develop a more immersive virtual or augmented reality environments, industry representatives could see overall benefits and unique opportunities working with NPS and the military.

“It was eye-opening as far as opportunities in areas that I didn’t already know about at NPS,” said Scott Newbern, Chief Technology Officer of AeroVironment, Inc. “I think there are opportunities that will allow us to work with the government and university where we can benefit from each other. NPS is a research environment, and research environments generally allow you to take more risks.”

Based off the success of this event, McCabe indicated that this initial Tech Op event was just the beginning.

“The importance of partnerships is the partnerships themselves,” said McCabe. “These themes will branch wherever we see an opportunity to engage with industry as they relate to the multiple specialties shared on campus. We want to encourage industry to engage us and each other as peers to build upon and push both our research and their research forward.”

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