Shark Tank Competitors Dive Into Technology Contest

May 23, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The first finalist offers an autonomous emergency delivery service.


A company designing networked drones for disaster relief is the first small business selected in an AFCEA Small Business Innovation Shark Tank competition to uncover innovative emerging technologies. The company, LTAid of Vancouver, Washington, is building unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can serve emergency responders as well as warfighters in theater.

“The demand for logistics outstrips the ability of logistics,” said LTAid’s Chris Thobaben during the competition. “We look to revolutionize a small piece of the supply chain, but it’s the most critical piece.”

Thobaben explained that the company envisions packs of UAVs carrying urgent supplies to disaster-ridden areas that are cut off from normal resources. He added that the firm already is working with the Malaysian state of Sabah to address the problem of delivering health care supplies to remote areas.

LTAid was selected in an AFCEA shark tank competition featuring three other firms: Monkton, VG Systems and Petascale. A company representative from Monkton offered the firm’s Rebar, which enables repeatable, secure and mobile solutions from commercial to SECRET classified. VG Systems presented its project management methodology, Guerrilla DevOps, which automates processes and integration. And Petascale’s proposed system, for which the company is seeking funding and assistance, uses available data to help individuals identify and track a tornado they cannot see.

Three judges from government or with government backgrounds heard five-minute presentations from officials of all four firms, followed by a five-minute question-and-answer exchange with each representative. This shark tank was the first of three semifinal competitions building up to a championship final in July. All four small businesses are AFCEA member companies.

The shark tank is open to firms specializing in a range of innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital transformation or cybersecurity. Two more finalists will be selected from shark tanks on June 7 and July 11. The final competition among the three chosen firms will take place at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit at the Sheraton Premier in Vienna, Virginia, on July 26.

Readers can learn more about the drone system’s potential military applications in a SIGNAL article.

Developers recently demonstrated the drone system for the U.S. Marine Corps, shown in this video.

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