The future of autonomy research is a click away with the launch of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s ARCNet portal.
ARCNet – the Autonomy Research Collaboration Network – is a new electronic platform and business opportunity that facilitates collaborative research and development related to autonomous technologies for AFRL.
ARCNet is a critical component of AFRL’s strategy to accelerate the pace of technology transition, utilizing speed and communication to advance autonomy research. The speed comes from an agile, streamlined contracting process. ARCNet membership is open to academia, large and small businesses, start-ups and all of AFRL and allows ARCNet to serve as a conduit for the communication between potential research partners.
“This platform creates a ‘new collaboration paradigm’ for autonomy technology development,” said Dr. Corey Schumacher, ARCNet chief technology officer. “The consortium platform allows for a deeper dialogue between the government and potential performers on research projects, allowing the potential performers to participate in defining the requirements and execution strategy for a project.”
ARCNet is now open for business and adding new members every day, he said.
“The response from potential consortium members has been remarkable and reflects the energy and diverse knowledge base around autonomy technologies,” said Schumacher.
ARCNet was established Feb. 6 through a $196 million cooperative agreement between AFRL and the SPG Institute, a technology-driven, Ohio nonprofit organization. SPG Institute administers ARCNet, assisted by the Ohio University Russ Research Center.
ARCNet’s first project is ready for release to its membership, and AFRL has multiple additional funded research projects currently being prepared for release to the ARCNet membership.
Membership in the consortium streamlines several aspects of the contracting process, resulting in project awards in less than 60 days. Members also agree to a standard set of terms and conditions for R&D projects upon joining, which simplifies the process of awarding projects.
Any AFRL entity can now use ARCNet to conduct research and development into autonomy, and it may also be used by other Department of Defense organizations. To start an ARCNet project, the project sponsor must provide a draft or final Request for Project Proposal, startup funding for the project, and participate in the proposal evaluation and selection.
ARCNet is also critical to AFRL’s implementation of the Air Force 2030 Science and Technology Strategy. ARCNet complements several aspects of this strategy — which requires cutting edge application of autonomy technologies — and directly aligns with the strategy’s third objective to deepen and expand the S&T Enterprise.
“ARCNet is ideally situated to assist AFRL in achieving this objective, by cultivating partnerships, engaging more closely with university research, and enhancing dialogue between the AF S&T enterprise and potential sources of innovation,” said Schumacher. “That is what the S&T Strategy has asked for – and it is what ARCNet is designed to do.”