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Naval Agility: Modern Installation Mobility/Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground

LtCol Brandon H. Newell led the development of an Autonomous Vehicle Proving Grounds aboard Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego to expedite commercial Autonomous Vehicle (AV) innovation. This will increase Marine Corps understanding of emerging AV capabilities and their potential impact on installations and the battlefield. Due to his leadership, the autonomous and connected vehicle industry will be able to conduct developmental and operational testing aboard the installation. Both Urban and Rural routes at MCAS Miramar have been established to facilitate diversified options for industry. The Marine Corps will leverage lessons learned for development of AV operational views, requirements, and funding prioritization. SPAWAR Systems Command Pacific (SSC PAC), Tank & Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy (ODASD OE) are collaborators in the effort.

Today, Qualcomm is utilizing the AV Proving Grounds for developmental testing as they shape future of AVs through the multitude of partnerships across the auto industry. This collaboration was facilitated by a SSC PAC Collaborative Research and Development Agreement with Qualcomm. Similarly, LtCol Newell has initiated an agreement with Uber for drone delivery in conjunctions with the FAA UAS Integrated Pilot Program in San Diego, CA. The Army Research Laboratory facilitated a CRADA with the ridehailing company, that will allow Uber to conduct developmental testing as part of the AV Proving Grounds. This effort represents the early stages of the Uber Elevate vision that will eventually introduce Urban Air Mobility in Dallas, TX and Los Angeles as early as 2023.

As the Marine Corps evaluates both air and ground unmanned systems in support of ongoing Unmanned Logistics Systems, it has received critical support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. LtCol Newell leveraged his past experience in the Expeditionary Energy Office, to facilitate support from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense’s Operational Energy Office. Funding provided the Operational Energy Office facilitated the subject matter expertise of Robotic Research, to assist the Marine Corps in the development of safety protocols, route design, and feasibility reviews. The outputs of this collaborative effort will enable other Government agencies such as the FAA the ability to make informed decisions for updating regulatory guidance relevant to emerging unmanned technologies. In addition to the AV Proving Ground, a number of innovative mobility services have been developed in concert with local government and leading industry partners, including: Lyft, LimeBike and Waze.

LtCol Newell began his innovation journey by independently developing a “Future of Mobility” concept to cast a vision of how mobility services (car-sharing and ride-hailing) and autonomous vehicles can transform mobility on installations. Ideally, this plan would result in reduced costs for government non-tactical vehicle fleets, increased financial stability for young enlisted DoD members, a reduction in parking space requirements and gate delays. Installations would directly contribute to Command Priorities of combat readiness and resilience of DOD personnel by increasing safety and reducing DUIs through early adoption of mobility services.. The most important concept he promoted in his concept was holistically considering both official and personal mobility demand to create opportunities on installations.

Initially, LtCol Newell reached out to Lyft and Uber to discuss these concepts. Lyft scheduled a meeting at their headquarters in San Francisco. He showed up with nothing more than ideas he could draw on a dry erase board. Lyft was incredibly helpful in increasing his understanding of mobility services and how transportation is changing, but they weren’t the only one. Due to the intrinsic benefit of Government and Industry partnership, many companies and government agencies accepted the nominee’s cold calls and helped refine his ideas.

Since beginning the effort, the LtCol Newell’s Mobility Transformation Strategy has progressed rapidly, including procurement negotiations with Lyft and LimeBike bikesharing for revenue-share demonstrations aboard Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar, respectively. Additionally, he worked with the San Diego Association of Governments and Waze Carpool to develop a dynamic app-enabled carpooling pilot for all military in the San Diego region.

In 2018, LtCol Newell’s roll grew to creating partnerships for anything considered “smart cities”. He now supports Installation neXt (IX), the Marine Corps Installation Command vision for future installations. IX has eight vector areas, such as Protection, Resilience, Community, and Maintenance. To date, LtCol Newell has helped create collaborations with Customs & Border Protection for surveillance systems aboard Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab for counter UAS aboard MCAS Miramar, Federal Aviation Authority for UAS operations, and the California Energy Commission for energy resilience efforts, to name a few.

Most recently, on October 25th, LtCol Newell facilitated the CoLab Modular Logistics Vehicle demo day at Camp Pendleton, as the co-lead for the effort. This project is funded by the Marine Corps Next Generation Logistics office and facilitated by Defense Innovation Unit. The CoLab effort incorporates crowd-sourced design open to a community of 200,000 designers around the world that compete for cash prizes. The iterative design process then focuses on 3D printed small-scale models and the construction of a full-scale rapid prototype. At the demo day, Marines were able to ride in a prototype vehicle designed to be modular from the outset. Marines experienced a vehicle chassis that disconnects from a carpenter module holding tools and lumber then moves to connect to an administrative module with networked computers. The CoLab team went from the original concept challenge to the demonstration of a full-scale prototype in less than ten months, highlighting the disruptive nature of this program.

Source: Naval Agility
February 5, 2019