The World’s First Crowdsourced Military Vehicle
A crowdsourced military vehicle designed and built in just under six months.
DARPA, United States
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) employs some of the sharpest brains on the planet to develop new technology to be used by the US military. But it does not have all the bright ideas and recognizes that it too needs to venture outside its own departments to tap into the creative genius of others.
DARPA Reaches Out to the Crowd
For this reason it launched a crowdsourcing competition for a new Humvee that could be used for two types of mission: combat reconnaissance and combat delivery and evacuation.
The hummer has been the standard go to vehicle for the military, but as with all pieces of fighting equipment evolution is necessary to stay several steps ahead of the other side.
In February 2011 the research agency announced that it was offering good hard cash (a cool USD $7,500) to whoever could come up with the best vehicle in its ‘Design the next Humvee’ project.
The crowdsourcing contest was open to civilians all over the planet and to help them with their designs DARPA partnered with Local Motors to provide participants with a basic “ignition” kit to work from. This included blueprints, templates and logos.
More than 150 viable designs were submitted to the auto engineers at Local Motors by car enthusiasts, designers and numerous businesses and universities. They were voted on by members of the crowdsourcing contest’s community and the winning blueprint was FLYPMode.
The vehicle has massive 35” tires, a 430-horsepower V8 engine and ultra-bright LED headlights, and a fully functioning prototype was built in just 14 weeks. DARPA has not yet revealed whether the crowdsourced vehicle will be modified in anyway or if and when it will go into production. In fact it may not even be used at all. But putting it on the front line was not the intention of the exercise.
The main aim of this crowdsourcing initiative was to see how quickly, efficiently and effectively a non-traditional military prototype could be constructed. It was proof of principle to increase the agency’s understanding of crowdsourcing as a means to develop complex military platforms in support of its Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) portfolio of programs.
“AVM seeks to compress development timelines fivefold to accelerate product development, and lower the barrier to participation in innovation and manufacturing,” said Paul Eremenko, DARPA program manager.
Crowdsourcing Offers Rapid Solutions.
The speed with which the vehicle came into being is a testament to the efficiency, creative agility and power of crowdsourcing; a potential new military vehicle from design to workable prototype in less than six months. Crowdsourcing can get things done a whole lot faster, and cheaper, although DARPA has not revealed the costs in getting FLYPMode off the page.
Crowdsourcing Earns Presidential Approval
President Obama was introduced to the crowdsourced vehicle during a visit to Carnegie Mellon University which took in its Robotics Institute.
“Not only could this change the way the government uses your tax dollars — think about it, instead of having a 10-year lead time to develop a piece of equipment, if we were able to collapse the pace of which that manufacturing takes place, that would save taxpayers billions of dollars,” the president said. “But it also could get technology out to the theater faster, which could save lives.”
The president also commented on how rapid-built prototypes are not just for the military as the private sector can also benefit from accelerated timeframes.
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