Innovation demonstration

15th Wing |  Oct. 26, 2022 | By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.

Airmen from the 15th Wing innovation cell, Aloha Spark, host an innovation demonstration, highlighting emerging technologies at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
The demonstration allowed leaders to see a real-time application in cross-capability technologies such as the portable operations network integrator and the solar powered expeditionary tent system. 

“The 15th Wing and AFWERX (a Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)  leadership understand and emphasize the importance of working quickly in the Indo-Pacific theatre. Our accelerate change or lose model gives us a forward-edge approach by combining capabilities and teaming innovative technology with warfighters,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Bryan Anderson, 15th Wing innovation chief.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Bryan Anderson, 15th Wing Innovation Chief, shares insights about the Solar Powered Expeditionary Tent System with Col. Michele Lo Bianco, 15th Wing commander during an innovation demonstration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2022. Anderson leads the 15th Wing innovation cell named Aloha Spark. Aloha Spark’s mission is to significantly increase military effectiveness through agile practices, technology and partnerships while honing in on the agile combat employment framework . (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

Aloha Spark’s construct enables the innovation cell to be a pathway for collaboration and integration between the warfighter and the AFWERX network.

“When we look at the innovation ecosystem, often the technologies we need already exist. Aloha Spark saw a variety of technological solutions that we could integrate with for real-world operations,” Anderson said. 

The demonstration showed technological solutions for the warfighter but further revealed the adaptability of multi-capable Airmen and their ability to bring agile combat employment principles to the frontline. 

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct training on a portable operations network integrator during an innovation demonstration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2022. These Airmen are expanding their knowledge, skills and abilities to better engage in the agile combat employment framework required for multi-capable Airmen and foster ready forces to combatant commanders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

Airmen from the 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron received training from the Naval Information Warfare Center on the PONi system as part of the demonstration. These Airmen consist of several Air Force specialty codes that include; flying crew chiefs, crew chiefs, hydraulic systems specialists, maintenance production, and aircraft electrical and environmental systems specialists. 

“The PONi rapidly increases our range with inbound and outbound aircraft. The communication capabilities are not just radio but 5G internet capabilities, communication with aircraft and electronic devices,” said Staff Sgt. Seth Scott, 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Glover, 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, installs the omni-directional antenna on the portable operations network integrator during an innovation demonstration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2022. Glover and other Airmen are demonstrating the advances in the multi-capable Airmen concept. MCA is an initiative where a small group of Airmen are trained to accomplish tasks outside their  Air Force specialty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

Scott added that receiving the training on the PONi system gives MCA’s the confidence needed to implement new capabilities while decreasing their footprint in an austere environment.
The SPETS system was also demonstrated. It provides the versatility needed for multipurpose usage in various environments. According to the Air Force Rapid Global Mobility office, SPETS has the ability to retrofit to meet the needs of commanders and contingencies such as personnel lodging, command center, storage facility, medical staging area, and more in various locations.

“SPETS and PONi allow MCA’s to disperse and set up a resilient and mobile command center that will give commanders quicker access to information and communication efforts while in various locations to meet the need for the future fight,” Lt. Col. Karman Khalidi, 15th Maintenance Group deputy commander.

Aloha Spark, 15th Wing innovation cell, host an innovation demonstration, highlighting emerging technologies at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2022. The Solar Powered Expeditionary Tent System properly aligns solar, energy storage, cooling and heating for a fully off grid expeditionary system.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

The MCA concepts focus on teaching skill sets outside of one’s respective career field. For Staff Sgt. Dan Kosty, 15th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, this demonstration offered an opportunity to incorporate 3D printing skills acquired while assigned to Aloha Spark and show practical cross-utilization inside the SPETS. 
“Having the capability to generate our energy with SPETS away from a main operating base gives us the advantage. A system like this, tethered with current technologies such as 3-D printing will allow Airmen to produce specialized applicable and agile tools for any airframe and weapons system within our forward operating region,” said Kosty. 

The U.S. Air Force defines agile combat employment as a way of operating that relies less on large traditional main overseas bases as hubs for projecting combat power and more on launching, recovering, and maintaining aircraft from dispersed forwarded operating locations in concert with allies and partners. 

Airmen from the 15th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and civilian partners from the Under Secretary of Defense for research and engineering office demonstrate the portable operations network integrator at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2022.  These Airmen are expanding their knowledge, skills and abilities to better engage in the agile combat employment framework required for multi-capable Airmen to foster ready forces for combatant commanders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

 “Demonstrations like these are great conversation starters that allow us to ask the question; how might we strengthen ACE capabilities locally?” Anderson said. “The demonstration also validated the need to further implement our multi-capable Airmen into strategies that allow us to continue ensuring our ability to maintain peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.”

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Project Arcwater: Sustaining more than just the warfighter

52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs |  July 3, 2022 | By Tech. Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman

photo courtesy of Spangdahlem Air Base

OTWOCK, Poland —  Her words fell with a staggering weight as she began to recount the emotional journey that led her and her team of colleagues to this point.

Her purple glasses, pink-floral blouse, pink lipstick and thin gold chain necklace told the story of a bubbly, approachable woman, and her tone and articulation lent credence to her many years of education and experience. Yet through her smile, her struggle was apparent.

Pulling through the pandemic was already hard enough; organizations like hers had been forced to abandon their traditional practices for years or cancel programs altogether. What had once been an infallible annual tradition of teaching children English through an art summer camp in Poland was in triage for the third year in a row.

“This year had been a very hard year for me, personally,” said Mary Kay Pieski, co-president of Eagle-Orzel Educational and Cultural Exchange, Inc. who has a doctorate in cultural foundations of education. “I was up against a board that was saying no to me, and teachers that were saying, ‘No, we don’t feel comfortable.’”

Eagle-Orzel is a nonprofit cultural exchange organization between the U.S. and Poland has partnered with Poviat Youth Cultural Center in Otwock to host an annual summer camp for teaching English to Polish children through different arts.

The summer camp has become a tremendous part of Pieski’s life in many ways; it’s been an annual summertime staple for her throughout the past 27 years. Feeling as if she was faced with the abrupt end of something she has cherished so much fell onto her like a ton of bricks.

This year would be different, though. By partnering with the U.S. Air Force at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Pieski and her eight colleagues would finally cross the Atlantic to join what she considers to be her overseas family once again.

“At that point, I was very concerned because most of our volunteers were hesitant to come to Poland this summer because of the situation in Ukraine, and also COVID was preventing us the last two years to come,” Pieski said. “I was so upset because I didn’t know how I was going to make this happen this summer.”

Up to this point, the last few years had been especially challenging for Pieski. Though vaccinations and relaxed restrictions eased travel challenges in the early months of 2022, she received gut-wrenching news she feared would permanently end her participation in the English-language summer camp.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Pieski said. “I made it through surgery and radiation, and I was like, ‘I’m going to Poland, no matter what,’ but I just couldn’t find the way.”

This year’s program in Otwock, Poland, was further complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Poland’s neighboring country – which sewed uncertainty in the nonprofit’s board members and cast doubt in its security.

Airman gives a demonstration of Project Arcwater to children at a summer camp.
People construct field tent.
Airman gives a demonstration of Project Arcwater to children at a summer camp.
photos courtesy of Spangdahlem Air Base

That’s when she called an old friend, Tech. Sgt. Matt Connelly, the innovation manager for the 52nd Fighter Wing, who first joined the summer camp as a teacher’s assistant roughly a decade ago.

“We would not be here at all if it wasn’t for Matt,” Pieski said. “His positive attitude, his assurance, his determination to work with us and make this happen for us … It was just incredible,” Pieski said. “It was an absolute, answer-to-prayer miracle that happened here on many levels.”

Connelly is the resident improvement expert at Spangdahlem Air Base. He teaches classes on process improvement and has helped countless members at the installation bring their workplace innovation ideas to fruition – ideas like Project Arcwater, the latest crowned champion of the Air Force Spark Tank innovation competition.

After speaking more with Connelly, Pieski had a way forward: Send a formal invitation to 52nd FW leadership asking Connelly to join.

While discussing the terms of joining the Eagle-Orzel bunch as a volunteer aid, it hit him: This was an opportunity for the Air Force, too. Connelly could help the summer camp continue forward, teaching both Polish and Ukrainian refugee children through humanitarian aid, while also field testing the Air Force’s latest big-name innovation.

Project Arcwater was pitched to provide two main services: Clean electrical power and ultra-pure drinking water. The system uses advanced solar fabric* and an atmospheric water harvester to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions, fuel and equipment transportation challenges, and their associated costs in order to provide sustainable services in austere environments – or in this case, a two-week children’s summer camp.

“Project Arcwater is the number-one innovation in the Air and Space Forces; we report to the vice chief of staff just about every two weeks about what’s going on with Arcwater,” Connelly said. “The option of stepping away even for a personal vacation or anything, it’s very tough when we’re in a one-person position. It was a phenomenal feeling to combine something that was both humanitarian and practical for the needs of the Air Force,” Connelly said. “I love doing these kinds of volunteer programs; I’ve done this before on two separate occasions, and it was always very fulfilling. If we can effectively double-book by not only doing innovation work but also doing educational and humanitarian work – assurance and deterrence – that’s just a combination made in heaven.”

Using only sunlight and water from the air, the innovation can sustain dozens of warfighters during Agile Combat Employment, but the system is designed for a wide range of applications like humanitarian aid and disaster response. What normally requires a large generator and countless 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel can now fit in the beds of a couple pickup trucks.

After a few months of coordination with the Polish State Department, U.S. embassy in Poland, 52nd FW leadership, and Arcwater’s developer, Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, the solar fabric system, the water harvester, an air conditioner and a small tent were loaded into two pickup trucks and driven across two countries to join the Eagle-Orzel crew.

The system will be put to the test supplying more people for a longer time than it had ever been tested before. A success at the summer camp is a success for agile warfighter sustainment in operations around the world.

“Arcwater was designed for 55 adult individuals,” Connelly said. “This would be a situation where we have 75 children plus the adult cadre. What this would allow us to do is seriously stress-test the system for not just two days, three days, four days … it would allow us to stress-test the system for more than two weeks, and that was, in terms of data, absolute gold for us.”

The summer camp is slated to continue through July 8.

To read the original article, click here.

*Project ArcWater uses Pvilion’s solar powered fabric to harvest water, heat and cool, and provide shelter.


US Air Force Deploys Solar Power For New Self-Assembling Tent

CleanTechnica |  April 11, 2022 | By Tina Casey

The Brooklyn Navy Yard was the legendary birthplace of America’s mightiest warships from 1801 to 1966, when it stopped producing warships. Fortunately, the sprawling facility has come roaring back to life as a leading hub of clean tech innovation. That includes solar power, and the Air Force is banking on the Brooklyn-based company Pvilion Solar to help sustain the green fighting force of the future under the new Agile Combat Employment directive.

Solar Power & Tents

For all the technology advances in military systems over the past 1,000 years or so, on-the-go shelter has seen little in the way of foundational change. Expeditionary forces still rely on tents and canopies to keep the elements at bay.

Forces on the move also rely on fuel and water that moves with them, a topic that came to light with all its lethal consequences in the form of bomb-vulnerable supply convoys during the Iraq war, and most recently during Russia’s murderous rampage through Ukraine

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Marine Corps and the US Army began turning to renewable energy as a solution to the expeditionary energy-water nexus problem, with a focus on solar power.

Aside from avoiding fuel transportation costs, solar power reduces the need for noisy, polluting gas or diesel generators. With solar power in play, warfighters in camp have less exposure to health and safety risks. Reducing the level of noise-induced stress is another plus for combat-readiness.

Solar Power Plus Flexibility

The US Army appears to be the first to express interest in the idea of outfitting its tents and canopies with solar power. By 2010, members of the Kansas Army National Guard were already deploying a PV-enabled tent in Djibuti, in the form of a solar-plus-storage mashup with batteries from a Hawker High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (aka, generically, the humvee).

The US Marine Corps began introducing portable PV panels to the field by 2009, and it was also experimenting with PV-enabled tents by 2011. Not to be one-upped, in 2013 the Army introduced the idea of replacing a flexible, fabric tent with a new system that combines a solar canopy with a structure made with lightweight, energy-efficient walls. The idea is to maximize the overall efficiency of the system by conserving the output from solar canopies.

The Pvilion Solar Tent Solution

Pvilion Solar has been making PV-enabled solar tents, canopies, and sails for more than 20 years. It first flapped across the CleanTechnica radar just a few years ago, in 2017, so we have some catching up to do.

Back in 2020 the US Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office tasked Pvilion to develop and deliver a self-deploying tent with solar power, called HEXT for Hands-Off Expeditionary Tent.

Personnel at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska deployed the HEXT system at its flight line during the “Polar Force 22-4” exercise on March 31which focused on the new Agile Combat Employment directive. They gave the technology a big thumbs-up.

The HEXT system appears to build on the structure-plus-canopy idea, to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

“The tents…have a 42-inch by-42 inch footprint when they’re packed up and on a pallet. Airmen can offload them, plug them into a battery bank, press a button, and almost walk away; in three minutes, the tent has put itself up into a 20 foot by 20 foot shelter with windows and doors, 11 feet tall,” enthused JBER public affairs officer Chris McCann in an article posted by the base last week.

The solar angle comes in the form of Pvilion’s Solar Powered Integrated Structure, which is a solar canopy that can be mounted on the same frame as the tent. Alternatively, the SPIS canopy can be spread over any available surface, including other structures, vehicles, and the bare ground.

“The panels power rugged battery packs that almost snap together — a modular system. The first Airmen arriving at the location can bring one or two batteries, with follow-on troops bringing more as needed. When the mission’s over, the majority can be taken out, leaving only one or two for the last bits of power needed,” McCann added.

Reliable Solar Power For The US Air Force

Reliability being the key driver for military-purposed energy-on-the-go, the SPIS kit sports a conventional generator to back up its batteries when needed. The generator and the batteries carry on a running conversation and can switch seamlessly from one to the other.

As for the output, McCann noted that the SIPS kit can deliver up to 12,000 watts, which is the same wattage need to run an entire home including extras such as tools and computers, as well as an HVAC system and other large appliances.

JBER provides the Air Force with an opportunity to test the efficiency of the solar canopy in cold weather. We’re assuming it did okay, based on McCann’s commentary and the performance of other cold-weather PV systems. The system is also being tested elsewhere around the US for a range of temperatures and weather conditions.

Solar Power & The Energy-Water Nexus

Another site testing the system is Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, which also hosting another Air Force project that features Pvilion’s solar technology, under the name Project Arcwater.

Project Arcwater was birthed through the Air Force’s 2022 “Spark Tank” innovation competition. Created by Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney and Tech Sgt. Matthew Connelly of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB, it combines moisture-capturing technology with solar power.

“Water and power are nonnegotiable when standing up a forward operating location. But it’s not to get fuel and water on location. What if we could generate from thin air? Project Arcwater is an agile combat employment system that aims to significantly decrease the logistics of transporting water and energy needs at off-the-grid locations through solar panels, a water harvester, and AC/heating tool, creating 26 gallons of potable water out of thin air,” the Air Force explains.

“Project Arcwater is an Agile Combat Employment initiative that addresses the logistics challenges associated with moving large quantities of water and fuel to forward operating locations. The project aims to provide an off-the-grid power using solar energy and atmospheric water harvesting. The solution is designed to be independent of local infrastructure, easy to move, easy to set-up, and easy to operate,” its creators add.

Check out the Project Arcwater video for more details, and if you’re wondering what Agile Combat Employment is, that’s a good question. The ACE doctrine is a recent development that grew out of Air Force challenges in the Pacific. It was adopted throughout the Air Force last December.

The ACE doctrine includes a logistics element that emphasizes local sourcing, transportable systems and quick set-up. Considering that the Air Force also came up with the vision of a carbon-negative future for the whole Department of Defense, it’s a safe bet that solar power and other renewables will feature front and center as the ACE doctrine unspools.

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Solar-hybrid systems make logistical impact on JBER

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson |  April 8, 2022 | By Chris McCann

photo courtesy of US Air Force

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  –  Logistics can be an extreme challenge for a military. On the top of the list of critical items is fuel, whether it’s for heating, mobility, or powering a pilot’s tablet.

Trucking fuel in a contested area can be difficult and dangerous or flatly impossible, but the sun shines everywhere. Solar power can massively reduce the need for fuel and generators, but can be logistically difficult to deploy in austere environments.

Recently, Air Force Spark Tank and AFWERX awarded contracts for modular pop-up tents and fabric solar panels, which can harvest a serious amount of power – not only enough to heat and light themselves, but to provide power for troops, communications and electronics plus much more.

Pvilion, a company based in Brooklyn, New York, fielded the systems on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flight line during exercise Polar Force 22-4 on March 31.

Anyone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan remembers the constant roar of generators around the bases there. Pvilion hopes to help make that a thing of the past.

“It’s changing the paradigm of power generation, this hybrid solution,” said Pvilion CEO Colin Touhey. “A generator is like a firehose – whether you need a whole firehose worth or just a glass of water, you get the whole firehose. This system is like a water tank – you fill the tank and it can be more or less continuously refilled, but if you only need a glass of water, that’s all you take. You’re not running the whole firehose all the time.”

The tents, for example, have a 42-inch by-42 inch footprint when they’re packed up and on a pallet.
Airmen can offload them, plug them into a battery bank, press a button, and almost walk away; in three minutes, the tent has put itself up into a 20 foot by 20 foot shelter with windows and doors, 11 feet tall.

The tent will also take itself down at the push of a button, ready to be re-palletized.

The Hands-off Expeditionary Tent System, or HEXT, answers the needs of Agile Combat Employment – being able to drop Airmen wherever they need to go, with modular support.

To go with the tents, Pvilion also developed the fabric-based solar panels, the SPIS or Solar Powered Integrated Structure, which can be on or secondary to a tent. They can be mounted on the same modular frames as the tents, or simply draped over a vehicle or spread on the ground. The panels power rugged battery packs that almost snap together – a modular system. The first Airmen arriving at the location can bring one or two batteries, with follow-on troops bringing more as needed. When the mission’s over, the majority can be taken out, leaving only one or two for the last bits of power needed.

The SPIS kit delivers up to 12,000 watts of continuous power, 9,000 watts of continuous AC or DC power, and a 16,000-watt surge rating. (For perspective, 12,000 watts will run a whole home – fridge, HVAC, appliances, computers, tools, and all.)

Additionally, the systems are scalable and parts are interchangeable, Touhey said.

“The tents get longer legs; the solar racks get shorter ones, but it’s all the same stuff,” he explained. Adaptability makes the systems ideal for ACE, contingency response, combat control, and recovery operations, where personnel numbers may vary considerably.

The hybrid batteries can also be powered by a generator if there’s not enough sun, but even on a cloudy day at JBER, they were harvesting thousands of watts. The 5-kilowatt integrated generator and batteries also “talk” to each other – the command center, also in a ruggedized brick, constantly communicates to the power situation, and will turn on a generator if necessary. When the sun comes back, it will shut down the generator and return to solar power.

Pvilion is testing and evaluating the performance of the systems at JBER, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; and at Space Force bases in Colorado.

The systems were originally designed for civilian use, and are being fielded after two years of ruggedizing – meeting the Air Force’s requirements for snow loads and wind. They can withstand 65 mph wind and up to a few feet of snow. Since the panels are fabric-based, snow can easily be shaken off them.

“It shows the innovation capabilities between small businesses and Airmen users,” Touhey said. “We are getting real-life feedback by deploying seven kits to different climates, different uses, [and] different requirements. But it’s all using the same blocks.”

The systems are so far getting kudos from Airmen used to spending time on the chilly flight line.

“This time, the Airmen had two tents out there,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Pantoja, the 3rd Maintenance Squadron Accessories and Propulsion flight chief. “There typically is just one, but now the pilots can do their debriefings and get dressed without all the other personnel needing to leave.”

The Pvilion project started as a contract with the Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office in late 2019. They went from ideas on paper to fielding prototypes in nine months, Touhey said.
“It’s a testament to RSO and their contracts,” he added. “Contracting is rolling with us having a 90% solution, then a 95% solution, then a 98% solution, and so on.”

The systems were taken down at the end of Polar Force, but are now the property of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, Touhey said, and are available to any unit needing them.

“If anyone wants to kick the tires, they can,” he said.

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This year’s Air Force innovation prize winner makes it easier to plug in, drink up on deployment

AirForce Times |  March 25, 2022 | By Rachel S. Cohen

Troops set up Project Arcwater’s photovoltaic fabric system, which can produce as much power as it takes to run the average American home. Screenshot from Project Arcwater’s Spark Tank video.

For troops deployed in the desert who wish they could conjure a cool glass of water, help is on the way.

Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, a civil engineering superintendent with the 52nd Fighter Wing at Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base, won the Air Force’s annual Spark Tank competition earlier this month by proposing a cheaper, lighter way to carry critical resources such as fuel and water to remote areas.

His offering, Project Arcwater, aims to make it easier and more environmentally friendly for the Air Force to conduct agile combat operations — the practice of dispatching small teams on flexible, unpredictable missions away from the comforts of a brick-and-mortar base.

“We can use these green technologies to really reduce that footprint that relies on fuel and water,” Kenney recently told Air Force Times, noting that he saw a single power plant burn 30,000 gallons of diesel a day while deployed to Iraq. “We can shrink that down, and make the power that we can harvest from the environment 10 times more effective.”

Project Arcwater beat five other concepts in the finals of Spark Tank, a play on the popular angel-investing television show “Shark Tank.” That nabbed Kenney’s team $400,000 to build one system in a year, as well as a promise that the Air Force will assign Arcwater a program office that gives it structure and staying power.

The concept could shrink the price of a three-day, 30-person deployment from $40,000 to $600 by using up to 83% less fuel and eliminating the cost of water altogether, Kenney said in his Spark Tank pitch video. It’s also faster to set up than current systems, and helps free up about half of the pallet space on a C-130 Hercules transport plane.

“There are some up-front costs, but in just 20 missions, we can make that money back,” Kenney said in the video.

His idea arose out of disaster. In 2018, when Hurricane Michael destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Kenney’s unit in Georgia was among the first to respond.

An airman pours a cup of water from Project Arcwater’s water harvesting system, which makes drinkable water out of any freshwater, saltwater or moisture in the air. Screenshot of Project Arcwater’s Spark Tank pitch video.

The 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron from Robins Air Force Base, a mobile airport of sorts, headed south to reopen Tyndall’s airfield and evacuate the F-22 Raptor fighter jets that hadn’t left before the Category 5 storm hit.

Kenney’s squadron brought their standard load of a couple barrels of diesel fuel, but it wasn’t enough.

“Everything was contaminated with saltwater, so our barrels didn’t last very long,” he said of Tyndall’s inability to power its own systems. “We ended up having to use a tractor-trailer and load it completely full of nothing but fuel, and drive it from middle Georgia all the way down there.”

Planning a humanitarian aid mission in the Bahamas raised a similar concern. Kenney said his unit anticipated needing to bring 30 days’ worth of water and fuel because they wouldn’t receive fresh supplies.

Those events sparked a question: How can the Air Force shrink what it needs to carry on the go?

Kenney discovered Pvilion, a New York-based company that sells solar power-generating fabric, through the Air Force technology innovation group AFWERX. They got to work creating the electrical piece of Project Arcwater under a Small Business Innovation Research grant.

At its best, the solar power component can provide slightly more energy than it takes to run an average American home, and about double what Spangdahlem believes agile combat operations requires, Kenney said.

The system comes with batteries in case bad weather prevents the photovoltaic fabric from collecting enough energy to power the site, and a small generator that automatically turns on in emergencies and can recharge the system within a few hours.

That first product went to Robins, but Kenney moved to Spangdahlem before he could see it come to fruition. In Germany, he again sought military research grant funding to build another system for use at Spangdahlem.

AFWERX connected Kenney with Gyrene, a California-based company that harvests water out of thin air,but his request for a grant to get the project off the ground was never approved. After about a year in limbo (where the application remained as of March 11), Kenney turned to his local leaders instead.

The water harvester box can pump out dihydrogen monoxide using two methods: it can suck up and purify moisture in the air to produce as much as 30 gallons of water per day; or it can filter freshwater and saltwater that airmen find while deployed, filling its 20-gallon tank in 10 minutes.

This technology replaces a pallet of water bottles every six days, Kenney said.

Even in arid climates like in North Africa and the Middle East, the system can generate around 10 gallons of water, Kenney said, adding that it’s easiest to pull moisture from the atmosphere overnight there.

The contraption runs on internal power that lasts five days without charging while processing humidity into potable water, to as long as 14 days when purifying natural water from a pond or ocean.

“In the event that you are in a pinch and you really need to keep power on, you can plug the water harvester [into the generator] and it will actually use the onboard power from the water harvester to recharge the system,” Kenney added.

Older heating and cooling systems can weigh as much as 600 pounds and need a forklift to move around. The HVAC system on Arcwater’s solar component weighs in at 175 pounds and can be carried by two people, Kenney said.

Officials in the 52nd Fighter Wing approved of the idea and offered their discretionary funds to move it forward. The water system costs $87,000 per unit, while the solar setup runs about $232,000.

In contrast, the Air Force said in 2019 it spends about $1.1 billion annually to power facilities and vehicles (plus about $7 billion a year in aviation fuel). And though it’s unclear what the military currently spends on sending water to the field, the Pentagon said in 2003 it cost $4.69 per gallon to deliver bottled water to troops in Afghanistan — or about $750,000 to hydrate 1,000 people for a month.

Kenney said he expected to have a prototype by mid-May that pairs together the photovoltaic fabric and the water harvester. The finished product with any needed changes should be available in the fall.

He plans to take Arcwater to three field exercises in the next few months to see how it performs in the real world.

“We can put wear and tear on it, and then we have the opportunity to go back to the company and say, ‘Hey, I don’t like this. I want to move this knob from over here to over there, and that button is in a really inconvenient spot,’” he said.

Arcwater has already helped power a five-hour operation known as “Shadow Watch” for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an organization tasked with countering weapons of mass destruction, Kenney said. The system was able to provide nearly four hours of electricity using the solar fabric and batteries, even while it snowed.

Spangdahlem has also used Arcwater to turn sewage treated at its wastewater plant into drinkable water, and the system can function as a universal adapter to get potable water from almost any European fire hydrant.

Kenney suggested the creation could prove useful for organizations like the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Connolly, the 52nd Fighter Wing’s innovation manager, added that the German government is interested in piggybacking off of or duplicating Spangdahlem’s efforts as well.

In addition to furthering the conversation about how green technology can help the military, Kenney argues that Arcwater should spur the Air Force to think more about how its needs for agile combat employment will differ around the world.

“[Pacific Air Forces] has a huge ACE footprint, but it looks totally different than what we do in [U.S. Air Forces in Europe]. They’re going to be island-hopping,” he said. “How do we help them use this concept?”

He’d like to have those discussions by midsummer, then expand his horizons to other military branches and agencies outside of the Pentagon by the end of 2022.

“Whether we can go that fast, I don’t know,” he said. “But I keep leaning forward to help other people solve these same problems.”

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‘Project Arcwater’ reigns as 2022 Spark Tank winner

Official United States Air Force Website  |  March 4, 2022

By Tech. Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS) — Senior Master Sgt. Brent Kenney, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, received the 2022 Spark Tank trophy at the Air Force Association’s Warfare Symposium, March 4.

Kenney’s idea, “Project Arcwater,” is a simple, green, expedited way to save energy and provide drinking water by using solar fabric and environmental water harvesting in an agile combat employment. This will cut the operational energy and logistics associated with operations all around the Department of the Air Force.

It was a close competition as the six semi-finalist teams pitched their ideas to Air and Space Force senior leaders and industry experts during the symposium. As judges deliberated between the pitches, audience members online and in person cast their votes and selected Arcwater as a fan favorite. Shortly after, Arcwater was awarded as the 2022 Spark Tank winner.

“It was an amazing experience,” Kenney explained. “Being part of this process was amazing, getting to know all these other innovators and seeing how they are just as passionate as you are.”

The Spark Tank initiative allows Airmen from around the force to put forward some of their best innovative ideas and compete to make it reality.

Kenney created Arcwater to provide a system that aims to significantly decrease the logistics of transporting water and energy needs at off-the-grid locations through solar panels, a water harvester, and AC/heating tool, creating gallons of potable water out of thin air.

According to Kenney, now that Arcwater is the 2022 Spark Tank winner and has support from DAF, it can shift to reaching its full potential.

“Without the support of those that I work with in my office, I would not be here,” Kenney said.

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Project ArcWater uses Pvilion’s solar powered fabric to harvest water, heat and cool, and provide shelter.


Pvilion Awarded Contract By US Air Force To Provide 40 Solar Powered Integrated Structures By 2022

Press Release | By Julia Fowler   |  January 5, 2022

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Digital Journal — PVILION, a leading solar powered fabric product provider, announced that the company has been contracted by the United States Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) to manufacture up to 40 Solar Powered Integrated Structures for development and testing in 2022. These structures will be provided to seven different USAF end users. These users will range from the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) to the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). This will include both active duty and Air National Guard (ANG) units.

About the Products

“These structures will be used all in both expeditionary and austere environments for deployment during Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercises and real-world scenarios,” said Carl Buhler, Brigadier General (ret), USAF. They are fully self-sufficient, and each structure will include Environmental Control Units (heating and air conditioning), energy storage, lighting, power, and backup generators for cases of inclement weather.

These products transcend the traditional model and will operate as a hybrid power solution, using solar as a primary source and generators as a backup source. This newer, more efficient line, allows the USAF to procure a full turn-key kit from Pvilion and integrate Pvilion’s products into existing structures and infrastructure, on both the power and tent side.

About Pvilion

Pvilion is a solar-based fabrics and tent company, who offers products that range from stand-alone solar canopies to solar military tents, grid-tied long span structures, solar powered charging stations, solar powered curtains, building facades, backpacks and clothing. They are known for integrating solar cells with fabrics and building fabric products that can generate electricity.

About the Program

This program is a continuation of a successful 2019 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program through the RSO and AFWERX. The RSO’s mission is to identify, apply, and scale small business innovations. “The RSO is excited to test Pvilion’s technology with seven separate end-users, and prove out the benefit before potentially scaling to the larger US Air Force,” said Heath Wiseman, Chief of RSO Product Management.

About the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office

Established by the Secretary of the Air Force in 2018, the RSO increases mission readiness by rapidly identifying, applying, and scaling technology essential to the operation and sustainment of the United States Air Force. 

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