US Air Force Revs Up for ThunderDrone

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At a competition last week at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force kicked off its Light Attack Experiment, an effort to find a low-cost, light-attack fighter plane that would require reasonably little work to develop. At the event, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that the service is “going to have a big competition” soon, “a rapid prototyping event, … to investigate swarms and platforms and effects and data science of small unmanned aerial vehicles.” It’s name is ThunderDrone.

ThunderDrone is being coordinated by Florida-based SOFWERX, a firm that originated at the Doolittle Institute and has an agreement with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) “to assist with collaboration, innovation, prototyping and exploration with industry, labs and academic partners.”

SOFWERX is hosting a technical exposition in early September to which it has invited Special Operations Forces (SOF) Warfighters “to participate in ThunderDrone, a focused technology innovation effort related to drones (sea, land, air, and space), tactical swarms, payloads (kinetic/non-kinetic), and their associated data science applications for the Special Operations community.”

A report in DoD Buzz cited Secretary Wilson who said that “the service wants to look at drone swarm data and performance, and other ways small unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles can be used on the battlefield and beyond.”

On November 1, a “Prototype Rodeo” will take place in a 7,000-square foot indoor test range for drone experimentation, prototyping and testing. This event completes the ThunderDrone experiment, and some technologies may be selected by SOF and SOCOM for further development.

As Secretary Wilson put it, “Ok, bring your stuff, we’ll see who the last drone standing is.”

We only hope they don’t forget to invite Tina Turner.