Innovation Proving Ground
The Innovation Proving Ground will be an outdoor test site for a wide range of experiments.
The emphasis initially is expected to be on autonomous aerial, ground and subterranean vehicles and the variety of systems, equipment and instruments needed to operate them in battlefield-like conditions.
Time, space and position tracking will capture precisely what’s going on with vehicles and their payloads. Data is stored on the vehicles and sent for analysis to the Research Integration Center (RIC).
The tracking system includes differential GPS, broadcast receivers, air surveillance radar, thermal imaging, visual tracking and a small-scale weather station.
Antenna towers will be installed throughout the testing areas, equipped with sensors, LED lights, digital daytime and thermal cameras and speakers. All video and audio will be recorded and archived.
The instrumentation tracks absolute reality and compares it with vehicle perceptions as they confront various combinations of escalating obstacles – pyrotechnics, barriers, jamming devices and the like.
The site will include a variety of terrain, ramps, soil types and physical obstacles to gauge maneuverability and other aspects of performance. It will feature a set of tunnels to test potential underground vehicles as well as navigation and sensor equipment.
Research Integration Center
The Research Integration Center will be the intellectual hub for innovation, where researchers and other experts from industry, government, academia and the military gather to collaborate on emerging technologies.
The three-story facility is where data will be collected, stored and curated for real-time and after-action analyses.
The heart of the facility will be a command center to direct, observe and evaluate the testing underway anywhere in the BCDC in real time.
The researchers’ dream will be a wall-sized display of video feeds, thermal imagery, data streams, analytics and map overlays of whatever is being tested. This visual presentation can speed test insights and help identify testing article or experimentation design changes.
The facility will have offices for research teams and include U.S. Army personnel, laboratories, a machine shop and high-tech makerspaces for product development.
Specialists will manage the collection, storage, analysis and sharing of data with the military and others. Another group of experts will evaluate the cybersecurity resilience of everything being tested.
Finally, a team of simulation environment creators will supplement real-world experiments with virtual testing, which helps validate results through repetition and puts results in broader context.
The experts will apply knowledge of gaming, modeling and simulation for what’s sometimes called synthetic learning, and they will follow a national protocol called the Test and Evaluation Network Architecture.
The protocol ensures that testing at the BCDC is comparable and shareable with testing at other U.S. facilities. It also allows the BCDC to participate in testing at other facilities.
Dr. John Hurtado
Deputy Director and Chief Technology Officer, BCDC
Technology Innovation and Modernization Catalyst
Civilian inventors, entrepreneurs and other innovators will set up shop and tap into the support of leading national experts at a new 20,000-square-foot facility, a high-tech incubator that will complement capabilities at the BCDC.
The facility, called the Technology Innovation and Modernization Catalyst (TIMC), will be home to an entire ecosystem for helping innovators move from concept to commercial enterprise.
TIMC will offer startup space. Its staff will help innovators make connections with potential investors and partners and assist with business services, commercialization training and launches.
Innovators also will have access to other high-tech BCDC partners from the U.S. Army, the defense industry and the staff of The Texas A&M University System.
The TIMC ecosystem will allow inventors and entrepreneurs to focus on what they are most knowledgeable and passionate about — the core concept of their innovations.
“Those who come here will find everything they need to have the absolute best shot at success,” said Dr. John Hurtado, deputy director and chief technology officer of the BCDC.
TIMC offerings will include:
- Intellectual property (IP) strategy, and management: Gain valuable guidance on patent and trademark laws. Learn tactics to improve IP value.
- Competitive intelligence: Find out everything about the industry, marketplace, context and competition for your undertaking.
- Cooperative initiatives: Work jointly with other BCDC researchers and tech innovators on projects that turn concepts into capabilities.
- Technology export safeguards: Learn to navigate export opportunities involving control-restricted technologies.
While the TIMC building will be completed by the end of 2022, there are opportunities now to take advantage of the formidable expertise at Texas A&M.
The technology backbone of the BCDC is its flexible network of state-of-the-art instrumentation.
The network will collect multiple layers of data in a variety of ways, employing radio frequency, waveform, wireless and fiber-optics.
It will support software-defined radio as well as fourth and fifth generation (4G LTE and 5G LTE) wireless. This new data collection capability extends a 40-gigabits-per-second connection from the Texas A&M University campus and allows a connection of up to 1-gigabit-per-second for each device being tested.
The network will have internal and external fiber-optic hardwiring.
It is Edge- and Cloud-capable.
The communication devices can link to satellites for uploading and downloading data, which will connect it to other test areas throughout the U.S. for remote data analysis and for coordinating experiments in multiple locations.
The network has a software-based architecture so it can be reconfigured with minimal hardware changes, making it easier to test systems built to break or spoof adversary systems.
It will connect ground and aerial vehicles through radios — experimental or commercial-grade.
Ballistic, Aero-Optics, and Materials (BAM)
BAM, the acronym stands for Ballistic, Aero-Optics, and Materials, and it’s the name of a unique large-scale testing range. When complete, BAM will be one kilometer long and two meters in diameter, with instrumentation to fully support testing and evaluation of high-energy lasers, hypersonic flight, and hypersonic impact of materials. Once completed, BAM will be the largest enclosed testing range of its kind in the United States.
BAM will bridge a critical gap in U.S. research between lab-scale experiments and open-range testing.
The enclosed tube enables a well-controlled and characterized environment for precisely measured experiments using advanced diagnostic equipment. The kilometer length allows for large-scale prototype testing before moving to more expensive full-scale system testing.
BAM will help researchers investigate the influence of weather effects, such precipitation, particulates, and air turbulence, on the transmission of high energy lasers and battlefield communications. It will also help to characterize the impact of these weather effects on realistic hypersonic vehicle materials and geometries. The hypervelocity impact capability will enable the development of new armor and other protective materials systems.
Integral to BAM is a two-stage light gas gun that accelerates projectiles to ten times the speed of sound. Researchers will also use the high-speed test facilities at the National Aerothermochemistry and Hypersonics Laboratory (NAL). The novel diagnostic approaches used in BAM will be developed in the Aerospace Laboratory for Lasers, Electromagnetics, and Optics (ALLEMO).
Dr. Nathan Tichenor
Lead, Ballistic, Aero-Optics, and Materials, BCDC