AFMC Command News

Two men, one remote

  • Published
  • By Zion Dillahunt
  • Air Force Materiel Command

What if one controller could save hundreds of lives? Two innovators from Air Force Test Center presented a solution to do this during the Air Force Materiel Command portion of the 2023 Spark Tank event, which provides Airmen and Guardians an opportunity to pitch innovative solutions to operational problems.

Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Gilmer and civilian employee, Brian Warren, presented one of the two proposals selected to advance to the Air Force- level of the Spark Tank competition.

Gilmer and Warren collaborated to develop the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotics Universal Remote.

The duo is aiming to deliver a standardized remote compatible with all EOD ground systems such as small handheld systems, transportation systems and any other unmanned aircraft systems the Air Force deems operational.

"When you drive a rental car, the controls all do the same thing, but aren't necessarily in a familiar location,” said Warren. “You still figure out how to operate the car, but somehow it just doesn't feel the same as your car. Keeping that familiarity across all systems is our goal with this common controller."

Gilmer is an explosive technician at the 96th Test Wing, a part of AFTC located at Eglin AFB, Florida. He mitigates explosive hazards, protects personnel and validates training requirements to ensure EOD mission success. Warren currently works as an EOD support specialist at the 96th TW where he works on long-range recovery on test items in the robotics section.

Both men have experience in EOD. However, it was finding out both men had previous engagements in the intelligence sector that formed the creative bond between the two. The realization of each other’s background changed things. Conversations shifted from casual to innovative talk.

“It was nice working with someone who had actual intel knowledge to figure out how we could deliver products better to our EOD technicians,” said Gilmer.

The drive to create an improved product stemmed from the duo's shared hardships in EOD.

“Using all these different controllers and training on these different platforms creates a big learning curve,” said Gilmer. “Once you introduce a new platform into it the mix, you have to get trained on that, while remembering old functions as well.”

Capt. Nicholas Dejulio and Master Sgt. Joshua Flaherty, both from the 96th TW, served as mentors for Gilmer and Warren and provided motivation for them in the early stages of the project. Gilmer and Warren knew they had to create something outstanding to uphold the EOD mission.

The EOD mission is to provide the best trained and equipped force to operate, maintain, and protect sustainable installations as weapon-system platforms through safe and expedient removal of explosive and ordnance threats.

Gilmer and Warren generated an idea to pursue a modified version of an Android Tactical Assault Kit to fit their vision of having a universal controller. ATAK is an Android smartphone converted into a military platform that provides geographic data while allowing user collaboration over geography.

“Being able to have this universal controller with very similar button mapping will definitely decrease the learning curve,” said Warren.

Gilmer and Warren stated in their Spark Tank presentation that $50,000, along with 90 days, will allow the universal remote to be produced.

Once those steps are taken, the remote will serve as a prototype, and they will build more units based off that original model.

“The long-term vision would be that every EOD technician would get their own device,” said Warren.

According to EOD core mission areas, technicians deal with nuclear weapons, explosive devices, combat weapons of mass destruction and much more. It is pivotal to keep everyone safe, while also keeping each product effective.

“Our end goal is to increase safety and efficiency,” said Gilmer. “EOD is an extremely dangerous job, and this will help neutralize risks that occur with this job.”

Gilmer and Warren said they look forward to the final round of Spark Tank where they will present their innovation at a national level.