JIDA challenge aims to counter enemy IED in culverts

Representatives from ARL, JIDA and the Infantry School view TV monitors that show the industry vendor robots in action.

Representatives from ARL, JIDA and the Infantry School view TV monitors that show the industry vendor robots in action.

By Gerald Williams, Bayonet & Saber /

The Joint Improvised-threat Defeat Agency challenge Sept. 13-21 tested industry vendor equipment from around the U.S. in order to counter enemy improvised explosive devices in culverts at Fort Benning.

Industry vendors are allowed to use any type of robots they can in order to safely locate mock improvised explosive devices in the JIDA challenge Sept. 13-21.

Industry vendors are allowed to use any type of robots they can in order to safely locate mock improvised explosive devices in the JIDA challenge Sept. 13-21.

Jesse Smith, a JIDA representative, explained that culverts are creeks or streams that run under roads to prevent flooding. He stated that terrorists often use these areas to kill Soldiers.

“Because the IEDs are underneath a bridge or road, it is less visible,” said Smith. “Culverts became a big problem in Afghanistan around 2013. We want Soldiers to be aware of any dangers they might encounter and know how to counter them if faced with this problem. That’s the purpose of the JIDA challenge.”

“We also want to find better technology to fit our needs in combat. We tell vendors that there is a problem and ask for them to solve it using their knowledge of technology.”

Smith explained that the challenge was in collaboration with the Maneuver Center of Excellence Maneuver Battle Lab, the Army Research Lab and JIDA.

Robots are sent to out by industry vendors to locate mock improvised explosive devices in the JIDA challenge Sept. 13-21.

Robots are sent to out by industry vendors to locate mock improvised explosive devices in the JIDA challenge Sept. 13-21.

“The MBL hosted the event and helped set the place up. JIDA manages the culvert challenge and normally funds events for a sponsor. ARL manages the contract for this experiment.”
Thomas Walker, Network Sensing and Fusion Branch of the ARL, said the challenge consisted of two tasks.

“We have an inspection challenge and a surveillance challenge. In the inspection challenge, we have IEDs that are set around the culvert to be found by vendors using whatever technology they believe to be capable of locating the threats.

“The surveillance challenge requires vendors to set up sensors around the culvert to look for, what we call, nefarious or benign activity. The technology they use should be able to distinguish between a civilian or resident and an actual threat, such as a person carrying a gun.”

“We have eight vendors who are in the JIDA challenge,” said Smith. “Four of them are in the inspection challenge and four are in the surveillance challenge. Those in the inspection challenge will bring out their robots to interrogate three culverts. Two in the day and one at night.”

Smith stated that it was important to have vendors come out and be challenged, versus having them present what their product can do.

“Because we set the terrain for the culverts, it allows us to see how their robots perform under the pressure. We show them what the IEDs look like, but it takes concentration and determination to find them within our target area.

“It’s not just about surveilling culverts though,” said Smith. “It could be another area. But if you have a system that can operate on power for a long period of time, is concealable, minimizes human attention and can send you information over long distances, then that is the kind of technology we are trying to achieve.”

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