AFWERX: $100M challenge to redesign of U.S. Air Force pilot training

Monday, October 1, 2018

This is an open challenge, and we accept ideas between September 6 - October 12.

We need your innovative solutions!

How will you contribute to the $100M redesign of U.S. Air Force pilot training?

The U.S. Air Force is short 2,000 pilots and needs to train new aviators faster but with the same quality. To do this, the USAF has committed to revolutionizing pilot training with the launch of the “Pilot Training Next” initiative. Endorsed by the most senior leaders of the Air Force, this experimental program is prepared to spend $300K or more for the right set of upgrades and solution trials as it launches the next pilot training cohort. If proven successful, technologies and solutions adapted now will be the foundation of a total redesign of the program which has the potential to reach $100M or more in contracts over time.

This iteration needs to incorporate FAA Certification Content, Debriefing Software, Scheduling, LMS (learning management systems), adaptive content, and learner-driven experiences. The necessary funding is available RIGHT NOW to test and explore solutions.

Who are we looking for with this challenge?

Whether you are an aircraft enthusiast, learning expert, or tech industry specialist, we want to hear from you as we continue to refine the Air Force’s Pilot Training program. Please submit your ideas and we will then be able to engage with you!

We’re particularly looking for ideas from

Sectors of industry with solutions in:

  • Data science/data analytics
  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning
  • Biometrics/human performance
  • Simulator development
  • Both virtual reality platforms and graphics engines
  • Adult education and Learning Management System (LMS) platforms

People in the US or other allied countries with:

  • An idea
  • A prototype
  • A full-blown solution already being deployed and earning revenue

Challenge areas Pilot Training Next would like to improve?

FAA Certification Content: Learner adaptive content that will create an FAA Commercial IFR T-6 Texan Pilot Certification 3D model with full physics of T-6A Audio, visual, immersive, interactive Adaptive based on student performance

Artificial Intelligence Tutor:
Pilot Training Next previously utilized AI as a tutor that provided game-changing elements of individualized training. However, the current AI could not keep pace with student progress. Request an AI solution that rapidly adapts to accomplished learning objectives

Data Collection:
Request a solution that tags collected data and synchronizes across all sensors, so it can be useful for machine-learning algorithms, or other analytical tools

A suite of biometric sensors and the ability to ingest multiple biometric data streams, assess it, then change the learning environment to optimize student performance

Debriefing Software Platform:
Device-agnostic debriefing tools able to integrate multiple time-stamped data streams automatically and synthesize into a single source for playback. It’s important to integrate the following existing data streams:

  • 360 video
  • Audio
  • kml/DIS

Scheduling App: Automated scheduling solution that suggests optimized daily scheduling of learning objectives based on several dynamic variables

  • Dynamic variables include:
    • Syllabus: Ideas for a course of study allowing student freedom of choice simultaneously guiding learning and training resulting in the desired breadth of knowledge; this can include (but is not limited to)
    • Automating recommendations for students’ progress personalized on historical performance
    • Recommending content for student study and instructor focus
    • Creating a system that ties together a variety of learning and training resources across modalities for self-directed learning
  • Student progress
    • Smart grade sheet: User interface that is accessible and modifiable from internet connectivity that enables students to track the learning progress that connects them directly to the information required for the next phases of training
    • Ability for real-time data to be integrated with grade sheets from automated grading applications
    • Provide a functional dashboard with past, present and future views of progress
    • A holistic viewpoint
  • Factor in weather forecasts
  • Instructor recommendations

AI-enabled Search Engine: Seeking micro-learning opportunities and incentivized study methods that create more guided learning opportunities through the simulator. The search engine must be able to aggregate relevant content based on machine-generated, performance-based search terms

Learning Ecosystem: Interface that allows for real-time collaboration, cloud-based documents, an online knowledge repository, and media which is prioritized to the learner based on smart-algorithms and crowd feedback

We want to hear any/all ideas you have on how to leverage tools or information on any segment listed above to increase the rate and/or quality of the student pilot’s learning experience.


In early 2018 the Air Force leveraged next-generation technology during the first phase of Pilot Training Next by focusing on individualized student training to accelerate learning. The program graduated 13 Pilots in half the time of the traditional approach to Air Force Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT)

These articles to document the first phase of our program:

What’s in it for you?

  • Chance to participate in prototype and experimentation funding
  • Potential for $100M+ in contracts as the program evolves
  • Potential SBIR funding (Please ensure your company has a DUNS number for consideration)
  • Opportunity to attend an event in Austin to meet peers and Air Force customers
  • Official recognition for your brand or idea
  • Peer and customer collaboration with industry and the government
  • Opportunity to help the Air Force and improve the lives of the people that keep us safe

How long is the challenge and what’s the selection process?

This is an open challenge, and we accept ideas between September 6 - October 12

The evaluation process of your idea is twofold:

  1. Your idea is evaluated by your peers and have the ability to vote, add comments, and ask questions throughout the duration of the challenge
  2. Your idea is evaluated by a panel of experts from within the Air Force, including pilots, aircrew and acquisition experts

What will happen with selected ideas and solutions?

Potential to directly engage highly compelling solutions and offer contracts based on the evaluation of Air Force experts.

And, potential attendance at a challenge showcase event in AFWERX Austin on October 29-30

  • Here we will meet individuals, teams, and enterprises that were selected to attend the showcase event
  • During this event, AFWERX will make decisions on companies that will continue rapid prototyping and collaboration period
  • We are focused on you providing a solution NOT the way you get to the solution

What will happen next?

Rapid prototyping and collaboration will run from November 2018 – January 2019. Solutions that prove capable of providing significant benefits toward the goal of revolutionizing pilot training could receive additional government contracts.

How does the $300K and $100M in funding work?

The “Pilot Training Next (PTN)” program has the stated goal of closing the pilot shortage gap by producing high quality pilots in less time and for less expense than current training methods. This program has been endorsed by top U.S. Air Force leadership as a critical problem to solve. In order to solve this big problem, the USAF has adapted a Lean Startup approach to deploy rapid experiments and prototypes to new cohorts of USAF pilot recruits. The USAF has already allocated the funding and personnel resources to quickly deploy these experiments when and where it makes sense. In short, funding per cohort is expected to be in the $300K-$500K range. However, the USAF will spend less if available solutions do not justify the expense and can even spend more if the right solutions justify the need.

Will the USAF spend $100M to revolutionize pilot training? We expect that to achieve this goal, an expense of about $100M will be required. And the USAF is committed and ready to make that investment. However, those purchase will be based on rapid prototyping experiments and data validated changes to the program. As long as the data justifies the changes and expenses, the USAF will fund the program.