AFWERX showcases innovation at AFA Warfare Symposium; Spark Tank Finalist voting open until March 21

  • Published
  • By Rob Bardua, Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

Booth 703 was the place to be Feb. 12-14, as a constant stream of Airmen, Guardians and industry leaders stopped by to learn about the latest AFWERX innovations during the Air and Space Forces Association’s Warfare Symposium in at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora.

Representatives from each AFWERX division – AFVentures, Prime, Spark, and SpaceWERX – were on hand to discuss how small businesses and start-ups can team up with Airman and Guardian talent to address the most pressing challenges of the U.S. Department of the Air Force.

Finalists in Spark Tank, a competition created through a collaboration between AFWERX and the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, Management, or SAF/MG, also gathered at the booth to explain how their ideas would significantly improve DAF’s operational capabilities.

The proposals include:

  • An autonomous flightline resupply vehicle that would save over 300,000 man hours for maintainers
  • CyberAssess’ cloud-based workflow application would reduce the time needed for an authorization to operate to as little as six months and boost cybersecurity staff productivity
  • An F-16 Fighting Falcon cockpit collapsible ACE ladder that increases pilot safety, saves time and is 65% less expensive than a legacy ladder
  • Flyways defender’s artificial intelligence platform designed to expedite homeland defense protection measures by reducing the decision-making timeline
  • An automated digital load plan app that would accelerate medical evacuations by decreasing load times for patients and cargo known as LoadPlan+
  • The ability to equip and train medics to perform whole blood transfusions in the field, which would increase life-saving capabilities; named Project Lavoy in honor of the late Tech. Sgt. Zachary Lavoy, who was a member of this Spark Tank team until he tragically died in an Osprey crash in November 2023

Now through March 21, you can get involved in the competition by voting for your favorite Spark Tank finalist. View pitches on each proposal and vote for your preferred team here. The winner will be announced later this spring at the Pentagon.

According to Col. Martin Salinas, Spark Division chief, a new approach this year for Spark Tank has been the integration of the Refinery program into the process along with the capabilities of SAF/MG and AFWERX. Doing so has helped move the grassroots efforts of Airmen and Guardians from one stage of development to the next by connecting them with subject matter experts and stakeholders relevant to problem areas and prototypes, Salinas said.

“Refinery makes available the resources, training and practices of government prototyping, fielding and sustaining expertise, as well as private industry accelerators,” Salinas said. “This might mean meeting with engineering and science experts from the research labs, acquisition professionals, program offices, mentors or senior decision makers, and that allows innovators to have their best shot at success and also benefits the end-users by providing them with more mature technology that is closer to being operational.”

Each of the Spark Tank finalists’ ideas has merit and is worthy of consideration for possible implementation, Salinas stated.

“I am extremely proud of each of the Spark Tank finalists and the initiative and innovation that went into their proposals,” Salinas said. “The ingenuity of our people is what sets us apart from other countries and the key to deterring and winning future conflicts with our adversaries, and that’s exactly what these finalists and all who enter the Spark Tank competition are helping us do.”