F-35 (Scott Wolfe/Air Force)

2019 Government Innovation Awards

Better, cheaper and massively more test data

The Air Force’s 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron is responsible for test instrumentation management and data validation for a wide range of aircraft and weapons systems, but its work on a new system for data collection and analysis for the F-35 is particularly noteworthy.

Crowdsourced Flight Testing

59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 53rd Test Evaluation Group, Air Combat Command 53rd Wing, U.S. Air Force

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The new system’s Quick Reaction Instrumentation Package (QRIP) eliminated the need for a bulky legacy data pod and reduced the data collection instrument from 1,200 pounds to a 12-pound device smaller than a loaf of bread. Equally impressive is the fact that the per-aircraft installation cost dropped from $30 million to $100,000.

Those improvements dramatically increase how many aircraft can collect and disseminate data, enabling the Air Force to move from individual testers to more of a crowdsourced approach. More than 2,000 test flights have been conducted to date. And the Air Force can now optimize the download and analysis process so that the data crunching that once took hours now only takes 20 minutes.

Faster data processing allowed the squadron to uncover an anomaly that caused the F-35 to register as if it were grounded when it was actually flying at 30,000 feet.

“This malfunction would have potentially caused an air disaster,” said Erin Horrell, chief growth officer at Intelligent Waves. “This information helped the Air Force catch the problem early and replace the malfunctioning sensors, which potentially saved the lives of future F-35 warfighters.... What would have taken three to five years to discover — or ever — can now be done in a matter of days.”

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