SOCOM Leaning on ThunderDrone Initiative to Acquire New Unmanned Systems Capabilities

Pilot flying drone at SOFWERX ThunderDrone Tech Expo.

Pilot flying drone at SOFWERX ThunderDrone Tech Expo.

October 23, 2017 | Source: National Defense Magazine,, 3 October 2017, Vivienne Machi

Through a series of prototyping efforts — known collectively as ThunderDrone —  U.S. Special Operations Command hopes to discover new unmanned capabilities that could benefit the warfighter, the command's acquisition director said Oct. 2.

Industry, laboratory and academic partners, and individual citizens have completed the early rounds of SOFWERX's first ThunderDrone rapid prototyping event in Tampa, Florida, said James "Hondo" Geurts. SOFWERX — an initiative that facilitates fast prototyping and technology experimentation between SOCOM and non-traditional partners — is hosting the event in a rented indoor test range near its headquarters in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.

The command is looking to leverage the recent explosion of commercial unmanned air, ground and underwater systems technology to quickly field needed capabilities among special operators deployed globally, Geurts said in an interview with National Defense.

"There's a huge demand for [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]; there's a huge demand for protecting our forces as they're operating in small teams all around the world, and there's a huge demand for leveraging this technology quickly to get the mission done," he said.