MONTEREY — In an increasingly complex and competitive security environment, individual members of the military are seeing more and more opportunities to leave their mark on the future of American warfare.
Nikolaos Vidalis, an Air Force officer and student at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School, is one of those members.
Later this month, Vidalis, alongside two other NPS students, will take part in the Agility Summit, an event featuring 10 student teams chosen from across the nation to present their solutions to issues the Navy and Marine Corps are currently facing.
“I’m excited by the idea that I can somehow create something that would help U.S. Navy capabilities,” said Vidalis. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to help create a solution that could actually be achieved.”
The summit is part of a larger campaign put on by an organization known as NavalX. Created two years ago by James Guerts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, NavalX connects service members who have innovative ideas to experts who can experiment with proposals and help turn them into something tangible for the Navy.
Earlier this year, NavalX called on all active-duty Marines and sailors to pitch solutions addressing one of four challenges the organization outlined as pertinent to naval operations. These challenges primarily focused on the issues of unmanned systems, a field that has long been a part of Vidalis’ military career.
“I was trying to find a challenge that was related to my background,” he said. “I have experience in the Air Force involved in building (unmanned aerial vehicles), so I decided to join this campaign”
According to the Department of the Navy, unmanned systems are those that do not carry a human operator but instead are controlled remotely. This year’s NavalX campaign and Agility Summit were designed to lay the groundwork for a future where these unmanned systems are not only a prominent part of naval operations but also a trusted resource that service members can rely on.
Laying such groundwork requires ironing out the kinks associated with any sort of technological advancement. That’s where Vidalis comes in.
For the past three months, Vidalis has worked on his solution to the uncertainties of unmanned operations, which he has dubbed “Mature Systems-Qualified Users vs. Qualified Systems vs. Mature Users.”
Vidalis’ proposal seeks to answer NavalX’s following question: “How do we ensure that current and future unmanned systems designs enable a common user experience across departmental and joint capability requirements?”
In other words, as unmanned systems continue to develop, how can they remain accessible to human operators across the Navy who possess different skill sets and backgrounds?
Vidalis suggests creating standardized operating procedures that sophisticated unmanned systems can learn from, adapt to and interact with accordingly. In essence, machines will take cues from their human operators abiding by a common set of rules so users do not have to undergo increasingly complex training to keep up with constant improvements in technology.
“Consequently, the unmanned systems will be mature enough when, despite their complexity, they will be qualified to adjust to users’ skills/qualifications,” Vidalis said in his proposal to NavalX.
If Vidalis’ solution is chosen at the Agility Summit, which is scheduled to take place in Alexandria, Virginia, from Sept.13-17, he and his team will receive 10 weeks of follow-up support to further develop their ideas. Teams will then present their prototypes or proofs of concept to naval stakeholders.
Vidalis says that being selected for this achievement and even just making it to the summit will help bring notoriety to not just him and NPS but Monterey as a whole as well.
“If everything goes well at the summit, funding will probably be given to NPS and other private companies around the area that can help us realize our solution,” he said. “Actions like this could bring in funding or motivate students at NPS and other people in Monterey Bay.
“That makes me even more happy and honored to be able to participate in this summit.”
Contributed by local news sources