Cadets win Boeing Tri-Service Academy Capstone Project Competition

The Boeing Capstone Competition trophy is back on display at the Air Force Academy after cadets triumphed over Army and Navy in a three-way battle of the drones competition.

The trophy was presented to the team on May 21 by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Anthony Przybyslawski ’76, executive director for marketing at Boeing.

“Be proud of these guys. I am, and every American should be because they’re giving their lives to something special,” Przybyslawski said. “They’re going out to make America a power in the world like it’s supposed to be through the strength of its military.”

Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, dean of the faculty, also congratulated the cadets for their victory in the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) competition.

“Gen. Przybyslawski says the strength of the military allows us to do great things around the world,” Armacost said. “However, it’s the strength of our partners in industry who make this happen as well. This capstone competition has been an example of that partnership since 2011. We value and appreciate the support of the Boeing corporation, not just on this effort, but on so many others.”


The six-man team developed an integrated system to detect and neutralize a rogue drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

“This year’s objective was to design a counter UAS system capable of detecting and tracking multiple rogue drones, and then mitigating the rogue UAVs from completing their mission,” said Dr. George York ’86, director of the Academy Center of UAS Research.

“The USAFA cadet team had a unique approach,” York said. “For the detection system, they used acoustic arrays to detect the unique UAV sound and then triangulate on its location to track the UAV. This track location was then fed to a camera system on a gimbal, which was continually steered to keep the UAV in the image. The cadets developed two mitigation approaches. One method was to use software-defined radios to detect the frequency hopping radio pattern of the rogue UAV control signal, then transmit a signal on the same hopping pattern to jam the UAV. The other method was to deploy a friendly UAV with a deployable net system to capture the rogue UAV in the air. The cadets successfully demonstrated a live net capture.”

The multidisciplinary team included all cadets 1st class: Nathan Creech, electrical engineering; Justin Blumas, electrical engineering; Lars Knutson. mechanical engineering; Calder Kempema, computer engineering; Nicholas Martin, system engineering; and Austin Gadient, computer engineering.

Team mentors also included Lt. Col. Shane Crippen ’98, Dr. Scott Gruber and Dr. Harry Direen.





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