Bay Area SDR Hackfest Day Five: Final Team Flights & Closing Ceremonies

The final day of the DARPA SDR Hackfest was as exciting and informative as anticipated. Our teams took to the range for the final flights, impressing the judges with the results of their week-long efforts. The final keynotes helped bring together the themes we saw woven into the events of the week, including the proliferation of open source technology, the call for responsible tech development, and the need to stay involved in the regulatory process around SDR and other open technologies. To top it all off, our closing ceremonies gave the creative minds that helped make this week so successful an opportunity to be recognized.

Our final keynote speakers were Pierre De Vries, an Executive Fellow and Co-director of the Spectrum Policy Initiative at Silicon Flatirons, and Linda Doyle, Director of CONNECT and Professor of Engineering and the Arts in Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. Pierre discussed the 3D wireless world, the need for the open source community’s continued involvement in the creation of new regulations and protocols, and the fusing of software simulation in the real world. Linda took the stage after Pierre and discussed what’s needed for a successful spectrum revolution. She shared how changes in spectrum ownership and control are needed so that we can open up the communications space for new players, disrupt the status quo, and generate greater innovation and speedier responses.

The pinnacle of the day were the final team flights where all eight groups presented their hard work in front of a panel of judges from various DARPA offices, including MTO, TTO, DSO, and STO. This cross-office group brought diverse perspectives on UAV and SDR technology to help analyze the results of a week’s worth of hacking.

Throughout the week our keynotes highlighted how much work has been done already to make SDR, UAVs, and other technologies simpler, but as our teams witnessed this week, putting it all together is another challenge entirely. Despite the obstacles, our Hackfest teams were able to combine their diverse backgrounders and create innovative solutions in the crucible of our fast-paced Hackfest environment.

Hacker DoJo Fly-by-SDR, a team from the Silicon Valley-based hacker and startup-focused non-profit, brought a diverse group of perspectives to the Missions and followed a hacker ethos when it came to tackling new concepts. As the event draws to a close, the group looks forward to taking their learnings from the week back to their hackerspace community to continue to work collectively on solutions to the Missions and other SDR challenges.

TRT, a team of graduate and undergraduate students from SMU in Taos, worked diligently throughout the week to tackle our Mission 3 challenge. They came away from the week with a new appreciation for the complexity of wireless and drone technology, and look forward to continuing to work together on future SDR projects.

A team of mostly cyber experts from Parsons, YeS DR tackled our Missions with gusto. They were faced with a slight uphill battle based on their technical backgrounds but overcame every obstacle with collaboration and an exceptionally strong work ethic. They walked away from the event excited about what they were able to accomplish in a week and were energized by the challenges put in front of them.

Team Platypus Aerospace came to the Hackfest from Aerospace Corporation. Their involvement in the event helped further advance an existing relationship with DARPA and created thoughtful solutions to their Hackfest Mission of choice.

Our smallest but still very mighty team, Fat Cat Flyers, came up with an idea designed to have a lasting impact on the SDR community. The two-person team is looking forward to bringing their knowledge and experiences back to the NY-based SDR community, and hope to inspire more people to get involved.

DROGON, a team of talented members of Raytheon BBN, continued to build on their previous successes at similar hackathons. They heavily relied on open source technology to tackle their Hackfest Mission and acknowledged that the hardest part was integrating the various parts of their solution. They plan to take back their learnings to BBN to find ways to further integrate the technology into other aspects of their work.

Adversarial Science Laboratory was another team that relied heavily on open source technology and plans to continue to share their learnings and contribute to the open source software world. They were inspired by the collaborative spirit of the event and encouraged teams to continue to work and collaborate with them after the event.

Finally, DeepEdge brought a team from USC and UC Irvine to tackle the Hackfest Missions. They wanted to challenge themselves in the technical areas where they are currently working and took on the third Mission Challenge as a result. DeepEdge took full advantage of their range time, making several trips daily to improve their solution and their hard work came through in their final flights. The experience gave them an appreciation for the cyber-physical systems and they are excited about carrying the work forward.

We can officially call the DARPA SDR Hackfest a success. Beyond providing a space to develop cool tech and innovation, the event was an opportunity for the SDR community to make something real and tangible. The discussions, interactions, collaboration, and solutions developed on-site will live on after this event and will help progress the ever growing SDR community.

As for next steps, the judges will be reviewing the results and thinking about how the different pieces fit together – both for DARPA, and the SDR community. Check back in for more information on how the innovations from this event will live on past our final day.