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SOFIC 2017: SOF prepares for DroneWERX

17th May 2017 - 15:23 by Scott Gourley in Tampa, Florida

SOFIC 2017: SOF prepares for DroneWERX

US Special Operations Command hopes to expand on the success of its SOFWERX ecosystem in a collaborative effort focused on commercially available remote control technologies.

According to James Geurts, USSOCOM Acquisition Executive, the new effort reflects the command’s emphasis on ‘experimenting relentlessly and boldly’ in terms of new acquisitions and technology advances, ‘whether it’s General Webb [AFSOC Commander] going after lasers on gunships or looking at single man flying machines or whether it’s looking at swarm technology.’

 ‘I’m happy to announce that we are partnering now with the [Pentagon’s] Strategic Capabilities Office to build a “DroneWERX” equivalent to SOFWERX to really get at how we should leverage this combination of swarm technology, commercial drone technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to actually create near term combat capability and do it to also better learn what we need to defense against,’ he said.

Elaborating on the environment, he added, ‘On DroneWERX we’re going to exploit that SOFWERX model: very open with prize challenges; you have products walk in; with a healthy mix of academia, industry, hackers and makers. When the SCO was down here they saw that as an advantage. Commercial technology is becoming more and more of a national security both threat and opportunity. So our goal is to leverage that model that we have proven there to get after how we put together all of this commercial tech to give us immediate combat capability as well as to help us better understand the things we need to be prepared to fight against.’

Geurts said that the approach addresses both new potential capabilities as well as potential threats posed by the technologies. ‘I think it’s everything together – understanding what those capabilities are and how you would use those capabilities; how you grow those; I think inherently gives you both a view of current capabilities we can use as well as to get you better prepared for how you might defeat something like that if SOCOM brought it forward,’ he said.

Geurts added that he is not fully committed to the name of the new entity, cautioning that it will explore multi-domain technologies and a ‘drone’ designator might be misleading.

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