WEST BETHESDA, Md. –
U.S. Navy faces innumerable obstacles every day as it carries out its mission.
Scientists and engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division are
charged with helping to solve them so the fleet is ready with the latest
capabilities and technologies when and where it needs to be.
meet the challenge of combatting disruptive threats and realizing ever-changing
operational demands, the Department of Defense (DoD) and Navy leadership are
driving the Navy laboratory infrastructure to get new and innovative
technologies into the hands of warfighters and maintainers quicker than ever.
Carderock Division has taken a unique approach to this goal: to create a
Disruptive Technologies Laboratory (DTL) and charge it with generating ideas
and solutions for the fleet and take them from concept to reality.
DTL thrives on the premise that great ideas are not just random events – by
putting together innovators in a nurturing environment, one that facilitates thought
and is not hindered by historical paradigm, ideas can be predictably generated.
Bringing those ideas to fruition and displacing the old solution with the new
one in the marketplace is the bread and butter of the DTL. At Carderock, the
DTL works to make innovative successes achievable, not onerous. The DTL premise
is to move good ideas forward into the fleet.
isn’t happenstance when you create the right environment. With persistent
contact with new knowledge, it becomes predictable that you’ll have innovative
events,” said Garry Shields, the lab’s director. “That’s what the Disruptive
Technology Lab is doing – creating a sustainable innovation engine.” This
innovation engine functions as an incubator for new ideas as part of fostering
a culture of innovation.
lab was formed several years ago when a group of Carderock employees was asked
to look at the role of robotics in ship systems. Originally called the
“Intelligent Mobile Machines Office,” this group came up with the idea to
assess the exoskeleton technology, a human augmentation system designed to
lighten the load of those who do manual work – for example, sanding or blasting
a ship hull overhead or spray painting a wall. The commercially available
“exoskeleton” has significant impacts on the Navy waterfront shipyard community
as its applications are evaluated – there will likely never again be humans
having to perform such roles in an unaugmented manner in the future.
the success of the exoskeleton project, the group was next asked to study what
kind of applications they would consider viable if given access to a submarine
payload module. While there were many options to put in the payload module,
they chose to explore the possibility of putting energy sources on board. A military
effectiveness analysis showed that by providing these energy sources as a
payload dispersed from the submarine module, that newly available energy would
increase the endurance of unmanned vehicles operating in the area. Currently,
unmanned systems are required to carry their energy organically in order have
the persistence and endurance required for their missions. The energy needs
force unmanned systems to scale up in size and complexity to meet mission
requirements. The team’s concept is to make energy readily available where and
when it is needed by strategically placing energy reserves in strategic
locations for vehicle use. This concept increases persistence and endurance
while reducing the complexity and cost of unmanned systems. Without unmanned
vehicles needing to carry all their own energy to meet mission requirements,
this concept could change the nature of unmanned systems presence in the
DTL has worked on several other success stories that are transitioning to the
warfighter and the marketplace. One such technology is a demonstration of an
optical periscope detection and discrimination capability that complements
radar techniques and results in high probability of overall detection with zero
false alarms, providing a scalable, modularized and platform-independent
surface ship periscope detection and discrimination capability.
example is the Unmanned Vehicles (UXV) Digital Manufacturing (DM) Massive
Multiplayer Online War-game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI). MMOWGLI is a
collaboration environment that allows team participants to leverage
crowd-sourcing approaches to highlight and discuss new and existing
technologies for idea generation, and push them forward to obtain an optimal
and achievable solution. This project will allow the Navy to respond to future
UXV challenges; position the Navy to harness UXV DM technologies through a
series of action plans; and develop new methods of pushing knowledge to Navy
engineers. Further, it will build a roadmap toward Digital to Done where
design, simulation, testing and production are performed digitally thereby
increasing efficiency, minimizing duplication of tasks and allowing for design
flexibility that embraces digital manufacturing technologies. This supports the
Secretary of the Navy Task Force Innovation (TFI) initiative to move towards
virtual design environments.
the last four years, the DTL has hosted weekly meetings. Speakers are invited
to discuss topics ranging across the technology spectrum. The speakers may be
local subject matter experts, or academic or industry experts inside and
outside the Navy. Following these meetings, participants are challenged to form
groups and examine the social, political, technical and entrepreneurial
implications of each topic.
roundtable discussions and weekly presentations the DTL exposes its members to
new ideas, technologies, processes and methods of solving known and unknown
technical problems,” said Harry Whittaker, a participant in the DTL
collaboratory. “Carderock employees participating in the DTL are enabled to
take back what they've learned to their technical codes.”
team comprising the DTL is unique in its own right. It is not limited to senior
experts and specialists but rather people who think outside the traditional box
are especially welcomed in the collaboratory. The group is non-traditional; it
uses a “non-structured” environment. It functions as a web of people
interconnected across the technical community with direct access to each other instead
of a traditional top-down vertically aligned structure like much of the Navy.
Recently the group has been using milSuite, a DoD suite of secure collaboration
and networking tools that mirror social media platforms like Facebook and
Wikipedia to foster collaboration and sharing.
Most recently, Shields and his staff have reached outside
Carderock Division across the warfare centers and the Naval Research Enterprise
to form a Disruptive Technology Lab “Enterprise” (DTLe). There are now regular
meetings, teleconferences and brain-storming sessions that include
participation from organizations including NSWC Panama City, Naval Undersea
Warfare Center Newport Division, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, NSWC Philadelphia,
Naval Air Systems Command, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, the Office
of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the naval