One of the most notable gains from this week was how much Drone Detection grew as a team. We are gradually improving on how we work together and seem to work best in person. Every time we meet in person our ideas seem much clearer. We have been meeting more consistently and have now set up a weekly meeting time in addition to any other times we need to get together. Throughout this week, we have also gained a better idea of our solution and what is expected of us.
We have been continuously brainstorming ideas; we have about five ideas for solutions right now but each has its own challenges. These several ideas and the additional ones still being thrown at us may make things confusing at times. However, they are actually helping us keep open minds and think through what kinds of methods would actually be useful.
Our team learned a lot from the interviews this week, helping us better understand the problem, its beneficiaries, and which aspects of our ideas will or will not work. Jack also had the opportunity to have hands-on experience at a drone testing site and relayed the information he learned with the rest of the team. We have already begun organizing interviews for next week. Our plan is now to continue improving our understanding of the problem as well as our current solutions.
This week’s interviews, as previously mentioned, were very successful. Our team’s opinions about all of the interviews were mostly in consensus, but every member still gained something useful from this week. Some of the feedback received from the interviewees were expected and stayed consistent throughout every conversation, but other answers put considerations into our minds that we hadn’t considered.
Teammate Revelations (“Aha Moments”)
Jack O’Neill – (Interviews with Contacts 8, 9, 10, & 11)
After speaking with a few different people, some of the biggest things that stuck out at me were the fact that certain methods using radar can be detected by adversaries. While there are certain solutions, including the one that was demoed at fort AP hill, they are not fit to be deployed out forward because they would make our military sitting ducks and a large target. It needs to be fully automated and able to be put together simply as the people setting it up may have been up for 48 hours straight and need to have a quick and easy solution. I also believe we can do it cheaper than the current solution that is 600k.
Bailey Swayne – (Interview with Contacts 12 & 13)
My aha moment for the interviews with [Contacts 12 and 13] was that we need to find a way to have a live computer neural network for using computer vision to track possible drones in the sky.
Matthew Bors-Koefoed – (Interview with Contacts 6 & 14)
The biggest aha moment that we [Matthew and Anna] took away from this interview was that we don’t fully understand the situation that this device will be used for. We need to understand why exactly radar can’t be used to effectively design around this constraint.
Anna Lemba – (Interview with Contact 15)
My aha moment was when we [Anna and Bailey] spoke to [Contact 15], the student from Stanford University. Our original idea was to set up a counter drone using computer vision, lock on, and detonate an EMP. However, [Contact 15] pointed out that an EMP can only occur from a nuclear blast. Although [Contacts 13 and 12] explained this concept to us in the interview before, it finally clicked in my head what they were talking about. I do not have a background in computer technology or have a clear understanding of the lingo, but this was when everything started to come together and connect for me. I now understand that we need to use something with less energy and we can look into things like short-circuiting it, dispersing magnetic powders, or using a laser.
Brooke Blaney – (Interview with Contact 16)
During the interview with Contact 16, we gained the insight of a drone consumer. He explained to us just how easy it is for anyone to obtain and learn the controls of marketed drones like the ones the enemy uses. From this interview, I also realized that we seem to brainstorm and explain our ideas more effectively when we speak to someone outside of our group.
Next week, as mentioned, we will continue to better our understanding of the problem and the possibilities of solutions. We are focused on our beneficiaries and possible solutions to help them. Our primary goal that we focus on and renew every week is to provide the perfect or near perfect solution at the end of the semester.
The initial interview with our POC was very eye opening because they were able to tell us what they want in the solution. They are looking for a drone that is able to detect an aerial system to emphasize a threat and counter it. Although there is an Air Force command level legality issue for countering the threat, we should look at both FAA regulated air space and unregulated air space solutions. We had knowledge that the hard kill would be to protect information and privacy on a military level, but we did not realize that it would be prevalent to societies commercial systems. During our interview, some of the questions that we asked could not be answered due to the confidentiality issue in their work. For instance, we will not be given the type of situations that they will be used in, other than the fact that it will be in the US. However, they will provide us with the generalized environments. They encouraged us to go where the “puck” is going as technology continues to rapidly change. In addition, they suggested contacting the students who worked on this issue at Stanford because this will be to our benefit. The technology that we come up with may be able to be innovated into what they currently have, but they won’t be able to give us all of the information they currently have. They informed us that we should not be discouraged by any of these communication issues and that this is not an academic exercise, but rather more of a practical solution.
We are the Drone Detection team at James Madison University. Through Hacking for Defense we will be devising a solution to “create a drone defense identification system or prototype that can effectively detect, identify, track and counter any small objects in regulated air space.” Our team is comprised of five students from five different majors including intelligence analysis, nursing, writing, rhetoric and technical communication, computer science and engineering.
Sponsor: United States Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center