USAF fixed-wing helmet improvement challenge chooses finalists, moves to next phase

LAS VEGAS. AFWERX -- the U.S. Air Force’s program dedicated to solving some of the toughest problems it faces via collaborations between the nation’s top intrapreneurs, industry experts, academic professionals, and nontraditional contributors -- recently hosted innovators who submitted components, materials, and technologies specifically aimed at improving the USAF Fixed Wing Helmet used by its pilots and aircrew.

At the show in Las Vegas, AFWERX showcased the 37 solutions selected from the 100-plus submissions from across the U.S. and around the world. In the next round, 16 of those showcased teams were then invited to meet with the Air Force program management office (Air Force Life Cycle Management Center) to garner individual detailed reviews and the opportunity to attain $400,000 in prototype funding, a $20 million-plus government contract, or potential SBIR [Small Business Innovation Research] funding.

From the five full-service solutions and 11 component solutions reviewed during the second round, the judging panel and program office decided to award prototyping funds totaling $250,000 to three of those full-service solutions -- Gentex’s Modular and Scalable Fixed Wing Helmet, Lift Aviation’s KOR Aviation Helmet, and Aviation Specialist LASER-Fit’s Helmet. Also awarded was $150,000 for the exploration of a prototype that will involve several of the component solutions — Bell Racing, Specialized Bicycles Components, Vicis, Asymmetric, and Spotlight Labs — who will work with an integrating manufacturer to produce a full-system solution. These prototypes will be submitted to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center on or before May 15, 2019, for further assessment.