Draper expands rapid prototyping work in St. Petersburg
CAMBRIDGE, MA – To speed up the time it takes to develop and roll out technologies for special operations forces to use in the field, Draper is opening a new rapid prototyping center in St. Petersburg, Florida today, in close proximity to the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. The location allows users at both commands to engage directly with Draper engineers without spending time and resources to travel outside of the Tampa Bay area.
The U.S. military can take years to develop solutions, or to militarize commercial off-the-shelf technologies, that can be used by two or more of its armed services. With the unique requirements faced by special operations forces due to the complexity and regional-specific nature of their challenges, troops need rapid development and prototyping of new capabilities to keep pace with the highly adaptable adversaries they frequently face.
U.S. Rep. David Jolly hailed companies like Draper for providing “the technology edge” that helps enable the United States to play a leadership role around the world.
“Innovation, production [and] engineering relies universally on the private sector, on those who work in relationships of trust,” Jolly said during the April 6 ceremony. “Every employee here is a part of this mission at the tip of the spear, shoulder to shoulder, with your brothers and sisters who have raised their hand [and] taken the oath to protect and defend, not only the constitution, but to protect and defend each one of us. Every single person that will now be working in this building will be contributing to that remarkable mission.”
Draper signed a seven-year lease on the center, which includes 20,000 feet of space – double the rapid prototyping capacity of its previous St. Petersburg facility.
“Speed is at the heart of this facility and the support of the special operations community. With these new capabilities we are able to commit to better solutions, not only those conceived by Draper, but also those conceived by our local business partners,” explained John Dowdle, Draper’s vice president for engineering, during an April 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility. “We have created an impressive breadth of capabilities, including radio frequency digital design, mechanical design, microelectronics packaging, creative circuit board layout, finite element analysis and simulation, electronics assembly, optics design, mobile software development and system integration.”
According to William Ostrowski, Draper’s associate director for special operations forces programs and the head of the Rapid Prototyping Center, “We can deliver higher-quality solutions and do it faster. Continuous engagement with users and Draper engineers, combined with our understanding of their challenges and missions, helps facilitate faster analysis and recommendation of solutions.”
In addition to working directly with military users, Draper makes its rapid prototyping, design and systems engineering expertise available to large defense contractors as well as smaller firms in the area. The company also plans to collaborate with local firms working in areas including biodegradable materials, robotics and human systems technology, Ostrowski said.
Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements. Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.
Draper has designed and developed microelectronic components and systems going back to the mid-1980s. Our integrated, ultra-high density (iUHD) modules of heterogeneous components feature system functionality in the smallest form factor possible through integration of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology with Draper-developed custom packaging and interconnect technology. Draper continues to pioneer custom Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) and custom radio frequency components for both commercial (microfluidic platforms organ assist, drug development, etc.) and government (miniaturized data collection, new sensors, Micro-sats, etc.) applications. Draper features a complete in-house iUHD and MEMS fabrication capability and has existing relationships with many other MEMS and microelectronics fabrication facilities.
Over the past 10 years, Draper has extracted miniature systems and real-time embedded systems design knowledge to develop cyber capabilities to assess software vulnerabilities and capabilities to secure electronics systems. Additionally, Draper has demonstrated secure networks featuring over-the-air keying to realize cryptographically encoded, high-bandwidth communications for UAVs and other applications. These complementary capabilities and technologies provide robust security solutions to guard critical embedded systems against cyber, reverse engineering, and other attacks and ensure that critical information can be protected and delivered in a timely and accurate manner.
Draper continues to develop its expertise in designing, characterizing and processing materials at the macro-, micro- and nanoscales. Understanding the physical properties and behaviors of materials at these various scales is vital to exploit them successfully in designing components or systems. This enables the development and integration of biomaterials, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, wafer fabrication, chemical and electrochemical materials and structural materials for application to system-level solutions required of government and commercial sponsors.