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April 5, 2019

Spark Cell challenge winner develops device for night refuelling

US Air Force (USAF) 9th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II instructor loadmaster staff sergeant and Spark Cell winner Jeremie Anderson has developed a device to assist with night refuelling missions.

US Air Force (USAF) 9th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II instructor loadmaster staff sergeant and Spark Cell winner Jeremie Anderson has developed a device to assist with night refuelling missions.

The innovation seeks to change the way loadmasters execute the mid-air refuelling mission.

During the mission, loadmasters on board an MC-130J aircraft use colours that come from small coloured lenses hanging off parachute cords to communicate when to execute instructions.

Loadmasters shine a light through these lenses to project the corresponding colour to the user aircraft. This communication will aid the user on when to go, stop and wait.

Anderson said: “A lot of our lenses, as they get old and the sun hits them, they fade, so our aircraft that are getting fuelled are left wondering which colour was shown by us loadmasters.”

This hinders communication as the user aircraft would be left ‘second-guessing what was about to happen’.

“Anderson submitted the project to the Cannon Air Force Base ‘Spark Cell’ challenge, which is designed to drive innovation at squadron level across the base.”

Anderson felt the need to change the tried-and-true process to address the inherent problem.

Anderson first designed a prototype for an all-in-one device that features multiple buttons. The device has the ability to shoot different coloured lights out depending on the button that was pressed.

It essentially serves as a flashlight with built-in colours and removes the need to track down and use any lens.

Anderson submitted the project to the Cannon Air Force Base ‘Spark Cell’ challenge, which is designed to drive innovation at squadron level across the base.

The programme involves collaboration with airmen to identify problems and develop solutions to resolve them.

He is now working on plans of rolling out the device to all MC/HC-130 squadrons across the USAF.

He has also identified a proper fitting battery for the device and will proceed to the next phase, which involves pushing out test models.

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