The U.S. Army has awarded nearly $9 million to 11 small businesses to develop artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions that will lead to more informed Army decision making, facilitate autonomous operations and increase the speed and scale of military action.
The awards are in response to three contract opportunities released by the Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research Program for U.S.-based small businesses to propose technologies in the following areas: armament system artificial intelligence data logger and architecture; artificial intelligence for additive manufacturing part selection; and self-contained personnel safety systems for people in and around autonomous vehicles.
Six of the of the 11 awardees received Phase I contracts for up to $250,000 to focus on the scientific, technical and commercial merits and feasibility of their innovations. The program also awarded five companies Direct to Phase II contracts of up to $1.7 million each for small businesses ready for the prototyping stage.
One of the contract opportunities has the potential to lay the foundation for many AI/ML capabilities for the Soldier, according to Ralph Tillinghast, senior scientific technical manager for future intelligence at the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition and technical point of contact for one of the SBIR topics.
“The data that will be collected from the armament platforms will be able to impact the full acquisition life cycle, from training, testing, situational awareness, battlefield decisions, research and development, optimization, logistics and maintenance,” Tillinghast said. “Each of the companies selected will bring unique and different approaches to the topic that we hope will result in a robust solution as the project moves into later phases. This ability to leverage multiple small companies focused on a common project is one of the innovation secrets of the SBIR process.”
The following companies received awards:
This is the first set of awards curated under the Army Applied SBIR Program’s autonomy transition broker team, which brings together Army customers from across the enterprise and uses technology scouting to identify emerging capabilities from industry that can enhance current or future Army programs.
“The transition broker teams work to maximize opportunities for the transfer of cutting-edge technology to overcome Army challenges confronted by the Soldier,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR program within the office of the Assistant Secretary for the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. “I’m looking forward to seeing the innovative technology and approaches these small businesses take as they mature their technologies and transition them for Soldiers’ use – all with the help of SBIR dollars.”
In addition to benefiting the Army, the Applied SBIR Program offers a valuable opportunity for small businesses to interact with Soldiers and technical and operational subject matter experts, who provide insight into technology needs and guide small businesses through the Army research and development ecosystem. Small businesses are teamed up with technical points of contact from Army program offices who serve as a resource for companies as they mature their technologies for insertion into programs of record.
According to Brian Graham, robotics engineer with Army PEO Ground Combat Systems and technical point of contact for one of the SBIR topics, the Army is looking forward to achieving a technology that will allow people to safely operate in and around autonomous vehicles.
“Some of these technologies are already in use in industry – on road autonomy, logistic centers, shipping yards, etc.,” Graham said. “While other technologies have potential future-use cases in autonomous vehicles for both commercial and defense applications, the Army is interested in increasing the safety around vehicles, which in turn enables the Army to utilize autonomous vehicles in more situations and conditions.”
Small businesses will have additional contract opportunities to bring their innovative solutions to meet Army challenges, as the Army Applied SBIR program recently announced two new contract opportunities in clean tech and autonomy. Qualified small businesses can submit proposals from April 28 to June 14 at noon EDT. Full proposal packages must be submitted through the DSIP Portal. Additional information, including eligibility information and how to apply, can be found on the Army SBIR|STTR website.