Investors, Military and Subject Matter Experts Gather to View Leading-Edge Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Technologies
By Lora Premo
Colorado Springs, Colo. – December 20, 2018 – The Air Force Research Lab Space Vehicle Directorate’s Catalyst Space Accelerator held their big Demo Day on December 13, 2018 at the Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, the climax of three months of hard work for the Accelerator’s second cohort of eight companies. The historic Harvey House event center was at capacity and overflowed into a second large meeting space, with 130+ government and corporate strategic investors, Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) subject matter experts, and venture capitalists in attendance as each company pitched their disruptive PNT technology.
The focus of the intensive 12-week program was to find innovative, non-defense, commercial solutions in Positioning, Navigation and Timing that could be creatively adapted to meet Department of Defense stakeholders’ needs in a short timeframe and at a low cost. Participating companies received direct access to operational PNT experts and stakeholders from the United States Air Force and other government agencies, as well as from the Catalyst Campus, SBDC and PTAC national network of mentors, partners and investors.
Each company was selected by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate using the new Special Topics SBIRs (Small Business Innovation Research awards) as the application mechanism for entry, with $50,000 in non-dilutive funding for each company chosen. This new fast-funding mechanism meant awards occurred within 60 days of application, as part of the Air Force’s commitment to acquiring new technologies rapidly.
The opening remarks by Program Director KiMar Gartman included a grateful shout-out to Catalyst Space Accelerator’s very generous sponsor: SAIC® — Science Applications International Corporation — a technology integrator, primarily supporting the government services market, providing technology and engineering solutions, specializing in information technology, platform integration, training and simulation, intelligence, and mission expertise.
2nd Lt Zoe Casteel, Air Force Program Manager for the Accelerator, enthused, “We were excited to have record attendance at this Catalyst Accelerator PNT Demo Day! It shows the support this community offers to not only cutting-edge PNT technologies, but to innovation in the Air Force and the benefits it has for warfighters.”
The Catalyst Space Accelerator team was also thrilled to welcome several returning alumni from the inaugural cohort, who came to support Demo Day as a result of their positive experiences during their time at the program. One alumnus, Rob Lancaster, CEO and Chief Scientist of Adaptive Systems LLC in Colorado Springs, was enthusiastic and said the event was “extremely enlightening!” He said he had a great time at the event, from the fascinating presentations to the many deep conversations he had during the networking Happy Hour and Lunch.
The high point of the day was during the presentations themselves, as the eight companies in Catalyst Space Accelerator’s PNT cohort brought their technologies to life for the crowd. Finely-honed eight-minute presentations and pitches, created under the tutelage of curriculum-provider SBDC-Boulder and their partners, provided brief yet cogent discussions of their technology, with special emphasis on the “why” – why should the world be interested? This question was answered repeatedly and persuasively throughout.
The eight companies and their technologies were presented as follows:
Dr. Cantwell Carson, Chief Scientist, and Andrew Portune, Director of Research and Development for Cyber Physical Technologies for Nokomis, Inc., Charleroi, PA, presented SITH – Satellite Identification, Tracking and Health – a network consisting of small, internet-enabled, low-cost RF receivers designed to direct satellite transmissions. By analyzing the satellite transmissions received from different nodes, the SITH network determines satellite position and health status. This allows users to augment their existing Space Situational Awareness (SSA) capabilities and sensor networks by providing visibility wherever in the world the user needs it.
Danny Stirtz, Executive Vice President, and Lars Weimer, President and CEO of esc Aerospace, Orlando, FL, presented escPNTTM – Resilient Positioning, Navigation and Timing – which provides an affordable, compact, lightweight, low-power solution to centimeter-accurate positioning applicable across multiple markets and mission/business needs. Its tightly-coupled multi-sensor data fusion enables resiliency, accuracy and reliability.
Markus Novak, President of Novaa Ltd, Columbus, OH, presented Anti-Jam, Anti-Spoof, and Multipath-Resilient GPS, an in-place antenna upgrade providing protected access to GPS in challenging and contested environments. By providing secure and accurate reception of GPS satellite signals while rejecting external sources of interference, Novaa’s antenna platform allows existing receivers to have impervious access to GPS signals while suppressing unwanted jamming, spoofing and multipath.
Gareth Block, CEO of Third Insight, Austin, TX, presented HALO, a platform that uses computer vision-based “spatial reasoning” to provide resilient PNT to drones, satellites, and mobile devices in GPS-denied environments. HALO delivers real-time 3-D mapping, centimeter-scale positioning, powerful edge computing and semantic labeling of the environment to enable vehicles to operate autonomously indoors, underground, in cluttered spaces or outer space, reflecting. the intent of the operator.
Gary Green, Senior PNT Engineer of PreTalen Ltd, Beavercreek, OH, presented DIGITALSTM, which enables operationally responsive and agile PNT space through a small and very inexpensive payload through dynamic user-defined waveforms, frequencies, and powers. It is also directly applicable to congested, urban, and indoor navigation applications, and generates and transmits GNSS and alternate-navigation signals anywhere within 1 to 2+ GHz.
Joe Kennedy, President of Echo Ridge, LLC, Sterling, VA, presented their Augmented Positioning System (APS) , for assured PNT where GPS is denied or unreliable. APS is one of a family of software applications designed to run on the Echo Ridge ER310 SDR handheld radio platform that supports a wide range of challenging missions. A solution to jammed and spoofed GPS signals, Echo Ridge’s Signal-of-Opportunity (SoOP) locating technology uses available terrestrial and non-GNSS satellite RF signals for accurate, reliable PNT indoors and out.
Heidi Wright, Director of Technical Marketing at Braxton Technologies LLC, Colorado Springs, CO, presented FlashMAPTM, Braxton’s Flash Mob Agile PNT architecture, designed to aid the tactical warfighter in GPS-denied environments. A play on the social media “flash mob” concept, FlashMAPTM provides access to PNT information in GPS-degraded or –denied environments through an open source messaging standard so any PNT device can provide information to any other PNT device using the common architecture.
Jayson Denney, Government and Commercial Program Manager of Cold Quanta, Boulder, CO, presented their Rugged Atomic Timekeeper, which integrates into individual nodes of a networked system where it supplies a local reference signal. Once synchronized, the individual nodes (land, sea, air) remain synchronized for multiple days in dynamic environments. A sample of rubidium atoms are laser-cooled to isolate them from the surrounding environment, where they provide a frequency reference to a stabilized oscillator.
In addition to ushering the second cohort on to the next stage of their evolution, Catalyst Space Accelerator is recruiting for their third cohort, seeking established startups and small businesses with commercial solutions to expand, enhance, reinforce, and improve current space communications capabilities. Current Air Force and DoD space communication challenges include but are not limited to robust and cybersecure communications networking solutions, interoperability among existing communications solutions, jam-resistant technology, band exploitation, and solutions for low-likelihood of interception and detection. Proposed applicant technologies may be ground-based or space-borne and can involve some combination of hardware devices, software, data products, algorithms, or services. To apply, go to www.catalystaccelerator.space, or reach out to Program Director KiMar Gartman at KiMar.Gartman@c-trac.org.
Catalyst Space Accelerator
The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Catalyst Space Accelerator is a NewSpace-focused defense and national security industry accelerator, headquartered on the Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Catalyst Campus is a collaborative ecosystem where industry, small business, entrepreneurs, startups, government, academia, and venture capital intersect with Colorado’s aerospace and defense industry to create community, spark innovation and stimulate business growth.
Catalyst Space Accelerator is a collaborative program hosted by the Center for Technology, Research, and Commercialization (C-TRAC), Catalyst Campus, Space Capital Colorado and the Colorado Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory, to provide a robust, mentor-driven curriculum for accelerator teams.