Air Force awards contract to test device that may help prevent physiological symptoms in flight

The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train Joint Primary Pilot Training, or JPPT, students in basic flying skills common to U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo / Master Sgt. David Richards)

The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine, two-seat primary trainer designed to train Joint Primary Pilot Training, or JPPT, students in basic flying skills common to U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo / Master Sgt. David Richards)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Agile Combat Support Directorate recently awarded a $195,000 contract to SPOTLIGHT Labs to test the company’s SPYDR device, designed to immediately alert T-6 aircrew of low oxygen in the bloodstream, which may allow them to take actions to prevent physiological symptoms in flight.

Created to provide more accurate readings of oxygen levels, the new device will be integrated into the pilot’s helmet directly behind the ears, collecting performance data and monitoring heart rate during flight, said 2nd Lt.  Jessica Farris, an engineer in the ACS Directorate’s Human Systems Office and program manager of the Pulse/Hypoxia Observation Gear team that is managing the project.

“At certain thresholds, different alarms will sound,” she said. “In the beginning it’s a constant beep and then the beeps get faster as the pilot loses oxygen.”

T-6 instructor pilots began testing the devices March 27 and are scheduled to conclude at the end of April.

SPOTLIGHT is providing 20 SPYDR devices as well as technical support during testing.

Farris acknowledged that while the team it excited about SPYDR, the tests will determine if the device is the solution the Air Force is looking for.

“We are calling this project a fail faster project,” she said.  “If it works great, if not, we’ll find something else.”

If the tests are successful SPYDR could be issued to the entire T-6 fleet.

The PHOG team lead by Farris was instrumental in awarding the contract in only 13 days, one of the fastest awarded contracts in AFLCMC history.

“We are proud of the Human Systems team for meeting the Air Force Chief of Staff's intent to rapidly prototype and quickly execute programs that provide game changing solutions,” said Col. Brady Hauboldt, deputy PEO and deputy director of the ACS Directorate. "The team's effort is an example of our commitment to supporting the warfighter and quickly and efficiently meeting training and operational needs."

 

Q.  Where is the SPYDR testing taking place?

A.  Initially at Randolph AFB, Texas.  SPYDR testing will determine the efficacy of the new devices and will be conducted in the field through April of 2018 and at Edwards AFB, Calif. in parallel to an overarching evaluation of the aircrew breathing system.