Airfield Autonomy Initiative (AAI), is a development, integration, and test demonstration initiative designed for industry and academia participants to partner with the USAF to advance airfield automation and command and control (C2) systems.


NCMS is pleased to announce the Airfield Autonomy Initiative (AAI), an 8- to 12-month development, integration, and test demonstration initiative hosted by the US Air Force (USAF), focused on advancing airfield automation and command and control (C2) systems. This initiative is open to US registered companies only.

This exceptional opportunity provides a chance for industry to demonstrate their proven or potential airfield automation capabilities and/or robotic command and control system capabilities for USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC). Technology providers will be required to submit a Request to Demonstrate (RTD) proposal. Successful applicants will participate in a series of test demonstration exercises at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in Burlington County, NJ. Additionally, The FAA William J Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) has coordinated with the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park (NARTP) to also offer 2 weeks of test/development time at Atlantic City Airport (ACY), a smart airport test bed, to each offeror.

Airfields require a broad span of routine but critical functions—foreign object debris (FOD) control, runway surveillance, ground power cart operation, etc. Many of these tasks are being demonstrated for and/or converted for use on automated vehicles, but no robust command, control, communications, coordination, navigation, and collision avoidance system exists. AMC would like a way to inexpensively and rapidly learn the requirements of a viable airfield automation C2 system that can enable the development of more airfield automation.

The USAF recognizes that many technology providers have not pursued military business because extensive barriers to entry exist (e.g., limited access to big airfields for testing, limited understanding of FAA certification requirements). This initiative will allow providers to demonstrate their technologies in a controlled but operationally relevant location, while learning how to use, coordinate, and de-conflict multiple types of automated vehicles.

For this initiative, the USAF will focus on automation for the simple tasks of lawn mowing, Foreign Object/Debris (FOD) detection, and perimeter patrols (for both security and wildlife management). Focused technology areas to be advanced include:

  • Use in an airfield and flight lines facilities and/or environment not initially designed for autonomy while increasing human safety without reducing performance.
  • Interoperable multiple agent C2 that enables scale up through heterogeneous integration of other Airfield Autonomy Vehicles from a wide range of current and future technology providers.
  • C2 fleet manager that coordinates assets, human-robot teaming, robot-robot teaming, reduced downtime, and tasks allocation based on workload.

Preference will be given to technology providers with the most mature systems and with the greatest desire to collaborate with others.