JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – An idea for autonomous airfield operations won the 2022 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Rodeo Aug. 19 in San Antonio.
Craig Rednour of the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron at Scott AFB, Illinois, will receive a share of at least $1 million in funding and resources from AFIMSC to expand testing for six autonomous airfield tractors across two Air Force base locations.
“It is a great honor, a lot of great ideas and great people here,” Rednour said. “The fact that the panel selected me out of all the amazing idea and pitches is truly an honor.”
Rednour’s award will go to further testing and the expansion of airfield tractors that are both autonomous and modular, two features especially appealing to the judges for Airmen safety and efficiency. The unmanned and multi-functional vehicles follow programmable dedicated GPS paths that can be controlled from multiple platforms through several levels of leadership.
“I really appreciated Craig’s idea for putting autonomous vehicles on the airfield,” said Col. Kelly Sams, AFIMSC vice commander. “I’m a career mission supporter and the airfields are the holy grail of safe zones. Craig being able to earn the trust of leaders and users for these vehicles on the airfield is really innovative.”
Back in person after going virtual during the pandemic, the 2022 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo finalists were in San Antonio for a week to learn from leading innovators, team up with industry partners and network with peers, senior leaders and innovation teams. Finalists then rounded out the week by pitching their ideas to AFIMSC leaders during a final pitch event live streamed on several platforms. For those who missed it, the full event is available to stream online: PART 1 and PART 2.
Other 2022 Innovation Rodeo winners include:
Second Place: Staff Sgt. Anthony Davis with the 6th Support Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, with After-Hours Fitness Center Access at Every Installation.
Third Place: Staff Sgt. Dillan Whitehead with the 422nd Security Forces Squadron, RAF Croughton, England, with Defenderzon.
Now in its fourth year, the annual event has grown into a collaborative effort that brings together partners and innovation leaders from across the Department of Defense. During that time, AFIMSC Ventures – the center’s innovation office charged with helping the Air Force find innovative solutions to tough, urgent, real world, installation and mission support challenges – has also turned an initial $1 million budget into $85 million by leveraging Air Force and venture capital funding programs.
“We’re helping Airmen move the needle forward on projects that have the potential to improve processes and systems across the Air Force,” said Pitman Kennedy, an innovation project manager with AFIMSC Ventures.
In addition to funding, winners and finalists were matched with innovation teams from AFIMSC primary subordinate units – Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Air Force Security Forces Center, Air Force Services Center and Air Force Installation Contracting Center – for project development, testing and execution.
This year, support and guidance wasn’t just reserved for finalists and winners, said Dustin Dickens, innovation project manager with the AFIMSC Ventures.
“Even though we had eight finalists today, we considered 72 total ideas this year and our goal is to provide resources (for every idea),” he said. “We’re aligning submissions with the National Security Innovation Network and they’re aligning the ideas with local universities and colleges or other execution pathways to help them move forward.”
Through the Innovation Rodeo and other events, along with a network of functional innovation teams working to identify, nurture, develop and field ideas, AFIMSC is at the forefront of installation and mission support innovation, Dickens added.
“Innovation culture. Everybody says it, but we want to accomplish it. We want to change the mindset. We want to show that anybody can have an idea worth pursuing,” he said. “We’re providing funding, we’re providing resources, we’re providing execution pathways, and we’re aligning project management teams to support these ideas and concepts and move them forward. We’re showing that that no matter how small your idea is, (AFIMSC) will work to execute it.”
For more information, visit www.afimsc.af.mil/innovationrodeo.