AFWERX Open Innovation Campaign
ChallengeCurrent USAF mission profiles and air refueling ability have led to longer flight times for aircrew who must urinate multiple times during flight without removing restraint systems and flight equipment. As a result, female aviators resorted to “tactical dehydration” to avoid inflight relief difficulties and potential dangers. The USAF needed an improved bladder relief system to enhance female aviators’ overall quality of life and reduce physical and mental health issues.
theDifference designed and launched the “Sky High Relief Challenge,” a transparent process of soliciting solutions that allow all submissions to be seen by all Challenge submitters. Unlike the traditional Air Force acquisition process, this open environment is more prone to creating collaborative partnerships. Interested parties can contact one another and combine their solutions to submit a more powerful proposal for consideration.
At the close of the campaign, 56 solutions awaited evaluation. Of the 56 solutions, the Air Force sponsor team proceeded with 24 and extended invitations to the virtual showcase. These solutions satisfied the following focus areas: development of an entirely novel and innovative bladder relief system, a comfortable, form-fitting female interface, management and processing of bodily fluids and improved pump performance.
“For female aviators, the confidence in knowing their equipment performs safely, reliably, and is designed for their bodies will allow them to focus on their missions and perform at optimal levels.”
Major General Jeannie Leavitt, USAF First Female Fighter Pilot