Holloman AFB Section 49 seeks to innovate

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Paczkowski
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
To keep the 49th Wing's flying mission running smoothly, detecting and removing foreign object debris–or FOD–is necessary. 
Before conducting any air operations, Airmen from different units across the base gather in large numbers to perform a FOD walk. This involves Airmen picking up various forms of debris like nails, screws, paper, etc., from runways and taxiways on base. 
However, these walks also have another key player, the FOD BOSS Sweeper. 
The FOD BOSS Sweeper is a magnetized sweeper that can be towed by vehicles across the flight lines and runways to make picking up FOD easier. Members from the 49th Maintenance Groups Section 49, which is an innovation section of the 49th MXG, are coming up with a way to remove the driver for the FOD BOSS Sweeper to better their resource management. 
“All we’re trying to do here is save the Airmen more time in their days,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dwane Parmelee, 49th MXG Section 49 noncommissioned officer in charge.
The autonomous vehicle is being designed and constructed by Polymath Robotics. Polymath recently took a tour of Holloman and has been working with Section 49 Airmen to better understand how the debris-clearing process works and how to improve the efficiency of the FOD BOSS Sweeper. 
“What we’re doing to combat this problem is making an autonomous vehicle that can use the FOD BOSS Sweeper to pick up debris faster and more efficiently,” said Parmelee. 
While Polymath regularly handles other forms of autonomous vehicles, this challenge is different from what they typically make. 
“This is the first time we have explored or worked on FOD removal vehicles,” said Nicole Roccaforte, Polymath Robotics representative. “By taking this tour around the base, we can develop a solution to make FOD pick-up easier and more efficient for the folks here.” 
The solution Roccaforte refers to can help reduce the time Airmen are out on the flight line and reduce money spent on repairing aircraft caused by FOD damage to aircraft, both on base and across the Air Force. 
“With the addition of these autonomous vehicles, we can look at other squadron's vehicle fleets and determine which ones we can make autonomous as well,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Anger, 49th MXG Section 49 senior enlisted leader. “We can assist Agile Combat Employment or even the Multi Capable Airmen concept by removing Airmen from tasks that can be handed out to these autonomous vehicles. This gives our Airmen more time to focus on mission-essential operations.”