US special operators are inviting these companies to the 'Thunderdrone'

It’s not just about air shows or conferences anymore for defense aerospace companies.

Firms are showcasing their goods for US military leaders outside the usual weapons buying process, facing off with one another to prove who has the best platform — and who could win the big contracts.

“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said August 9 during a media day for the service’s “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the most recent opportunity for plane-makers to strut their stuff.

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range as part of USAF "light attack experiment." Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft flies over White Sands Missile Range as part of USAF “light attack experiment.” Photo by Ethan D Wagner.

She also gave a sneak peek into the service’s plans for more rapid acquisition experiments in the future, including an upcoming drone battle dubbed, “Thunderdrone.”

Wilson said 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.

The Thunderdrone drone-battle event, to be held September 5 through November 3, will take place in a “state-of-the-art, 7,000 square-foot, indoor drone test range for drone experimentation, prototyping, and testing,” according to its host, Tampa-based SOFWERX.

SOFWERX is a partnership between US Special Operations Command and the Doolittle Institute, a rapid innovation office that works to bring service members collaborative solutions by connecting private companies with the Defense Department.

USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Thunderdrone will bring together defense, industry, and academia to test “drones (sea, land, air, and space), tactical swarms, payloads (kinetic/non-kinetic), and their associated data science applications for the Special Operations community,” SOFWERX says.

Part of the “rapid prototyping event” aims to apply innovative thinking to “existing or envisioned ?voids” warfighters may face and come up with solutions, the organization’s website says.

How a drone’s performance will be measured has not been disclosed, but the special operations community will give feedback, the site says.

In addition, “using SOF and USSOCOM feedback, Thunderdrone may also pick and fund a select few technologies for further development following the [rapid prototyping event],” SOFWERX says.

TOP ARTICLES
This is the history behind the Navy's 'dixie cup'

The famous "dixie cup" is one of the most iconic symbols in the military today. You can spot a sailor from a mile away just from seeing this headgear.

The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes

Russia has warned the US that it will retaliate if Syrian government forces come under fire from positions held by a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Since June, Coast Guard vessels patrolling the US's southern approaches have stopped seven stealthy ships that ride low in water to spirit illicit cargo.

The Marines' Hymn will make you want to re-enlist

The U.S. Marine Corps has bravely served our country since 1775, and The Marines’ Hymn reflects that legacy. Here's what you might not have known about it.

This is why Morgan Freeman is Russia's newest target

A new video features Morgan Freeman railing against Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Russian diplomats say he's been duped by political interests.

The Marine Corps could soon have its first female infantry officer

The unidentified lieutenant just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last graded portion of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.

This new tool shows what nukes would do to your home

Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science, has created an interactive map you can use to see how a nuclear detonation would impact your city.

How to kidnap Marines — according to a combat training role player

In this episode, we speak with Kelvin Garvanne about his life as an Arabic/Iraqi role player, and how he takes training troops to a whole new level.

This is how you fight when the waters are rising

Underwater, all the fitness in the world won't save you if you can't keep your head. But dying is dumb. Time to summon a little amphibian ambition.

One session with this trainer will make you assume the fetal position

Water Survival is so badass it's gonna take Max two episodes to get you ready to face it. This is Part 1, where he makes you feel bad about yourself.

THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY

We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles

COMPLETE SURVEY TO WIN