NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. -- The Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO (U&W)) has started a new initiative, known as Innovation and Modernization-Patuxent River (IMPAX), to bring emerging technologies and capabilities to the fleet faster.
The first IMPAX project, awarded in September to Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), focuses on integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, a challenge the PEO has faced as the demand for unmanned systems continues to grow.
"This new concept is intended to gain access to technologies and ideas from sources that might normally not have access to defense programs. Beyond access to those technologies we are seeking a more rapid manner to solve unique problems and deliver capabilities to the warfighter in a much faster timeline." said Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, who oversees PEO (U&W). “We hope to reduce the technology development timeline to several months versus several years."
IMPAX uses the existing concept of a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) which allows non-federal government intermediaries to coordinate and solicit non-traditional science and technology (S&T) sources, small businesses, individuals, and academia to bring forth ideas from parties not usually able to contribute directly to military solutions.
"Typically, we see challenges when trying to quickly adopt and integrate rapidly evolving and emerging technologies," said Darrah. "At the same time, non-traditional and small businesses face a multitude of barriers to bring their technology to the government."
The recent PIA established between Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) and GTRI enables a rapid path for decisions involving emerging technological solutions to fleet needs. Once the joint team chooses optimal solutions, they test the concepts within the IMPAX structure. This would then lead to transition to a program of record or a higher state of maturity by transitioning into the more traditional S&T processes currently in place. The technologies can be transferred to and from government labs under IMPAX as well.
While PEO (U&W) is standing up the initial trial of this process at NAS Patuxent River, the hope is that when successful, this method will spread throughout other areas of the Naval Aviation Enterprise.