Marines connect smart base infrastructure

The smart base testbed will leverage Marine Corps Air Station Miramar’s investments in both autonomous vehicles testing and microgrid technology.

The Marines are working to design and operate a smart base testbed to support the resiliency of critical infrastructure at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, Calif.

Partnering with US Ignite, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing smart communities, officials at Miramar expect the new project to leverage that facility's investments in both autonomous vehicles testing and microgrid technology.

As a part of the Marine Corps’ Mobility Transformation, Miramar has been experimenting with autonomous vehicles since early 2018 when it opened its AV proving grounds for industry and government partners to test and develop AV technologies. 

One project, born of a partnership between the Marine Corps and the state of California, piloted the use of electric AVs for official and personal use on the base. Because the vans are vehicle-to-grid capable, they can also connect to the station’s microgrid through a bi-directional electric-vehicle charging station, making them essentially mobile batteries. If the power goes out at Miramar, there could be enough stored energy in the van to power a building connected to the microgrid.

The microgrid, which was launched in 2016, is designed to independently power the facility for an indefinite period of time and taps solar panels, energy storage, landfill gas generators, a diesel and natural gas plant and electric vehicle charging technologies.

The contract calls for exploring three smart city resiliency use cases:

  • Smart buildings. Just as cities have installed sensors on poles and infrastructure to track energy use, safety and environmental impact, Miramar wants in-building sensors to share data, analytics and technology assessments to a smart city resiliency research testbed.
  • Smart grid. To improve the management of the microgrid, officials want to see how smart sensors can be used with distributed renewable energy assets, such as solar photovoltaics (PV), to improve power management, especially because the energy from renewable sources can be intermittent.
  • Critical infrastructure monitoring by drones. Smart city sensors on drones can monitor smart buildings as well as solar PV and critical energy infrastructure. Monitoring research data, analytics and technology assessments would be shared with public safety drone pilot programs in nearby Chula Vista.

US Ignite will also use data from fixed sensors as well as connected and automated vehicles to inform better methods of navigation and traffic management as well as reduce costs, improve public safety and deliver faster services.

In October 2019, US Ignite launched a smart transportation testbed and autonomous AV pilot program in Colorado at the Army’s Fort Carson in October. The program featured a data sharing initiative between Fort Carson and nearby Colorado Springs in which sensors on base that monitor traffic, parking and public safety are linked to the city’s sensors and mapping systems to create joint data repositories.

The Defense Department has been pushing “smart base” enabling technologies since at least 1998 when the Navy Smart Base pilot launched, incorporating smart cards, bar codes and cameras at security gates to reduce staff and manage administrative tasks.

In Georgia, the Army’s Fort Stewart and the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay have been working with Georgia Power to deploy solar panels that give those bases their own independent power during emergencies and allow them to the excess energy back to Georgia Power.

In 2017, Maxwell Air Force Base, working with AT&T, demonstrated a wireless smart perimeter that uses infrared sensors and facial recognition to detect and identify intruders and alert base personnel of potential security breaches.

More recently, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, after being leveled by Hurricane Michael in 2018, is rebuilding itself as a 5G-powered “smart base of the future” that will support augmented and virtual reality, physical security and data streaming to and from warfighter platforms.

This article first appeared on GCN, a Defense Systems partner site.