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AMC paves ground for Aerial Port of the Future

Airman 1st Class Taysean Knight, 436th Aerial Port Squadron cargo handler, attaches a 25,000 pound capacity cargo chain to the floor of a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observed Knight and other members of the Super Port demonstrate how ramp services personnel secure a forklift onboard an aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Airman 1st Class Taysean Knight, 436th Aerial Port Squadron cargo handler, attaches a 25,000 pound capacity cargo chain to the floor of a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observed Knight and other members of the Super Port demonstrate how ramp services personnel secure a forklift onboard an aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Senior Airman Octavious Tookes, 436th Aerial Port Squadron fleet service specialist, uses a magnetic lift to remove a sewer cover Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Tookes showed members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., how the lift is used to remove the cover prior to an aircraft lavatory service truck emptying its holding tank back in the APS compound. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Senior Airman Octavious Tookes, 436th Aerial Port Squadron fleet service specialist, uses a magnetic lift to remove a sewer cover Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Tookes showed members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., how the lift is used to remove the cover prior to an aircraft lavatory service truck emptying its holding tank back in the APS compound. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

First Lt. Sylvester Fernandez de Castro, 436th Aerial Port Squadron flight commander of the Passenger Service Flight and Fleet Flight, along with fleet service personnel demonstrate the use of the baggage conveyor to load bags containing blankets, pillows and supplies onto a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observed the loading of the bags through the “7 Left” troop door that are loaded when carrying passengers in the troop compartment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

First Lt. Sylvester Fernandez de Castro, 436th Aerial Port Squadron flight commander of the Passenger Service Flight and Fleet Flight, along with fleet service personnel demonstrate the use of the baggage conveyor to load bags containing blankets, pillows and supplies onto a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Members of Air Mobility Command’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observed the loading of the bags through the “7 Left” troop door that are loaded when carrying passengers in the troop compartment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Sara Keller, Logistics, Engineering, Force Protection deputy director, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., looks at the forward lavatory servicing connection of a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Wearing protective gear, Airman 1st Class Benjamin Harper, 436th Aerial Port Squadron fleet service specialist, demonstrated for Keller how the lavatory service truck provides waste removal and servicing to C-5Ms, as well as other aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Sara Keller, Logistics, Engineering, Force Protection deputy director, Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., looks at the forward lavatory servicing connection of a C-5M Super Galaxy Feb. 8, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Wearing protective gear, Airman 1st Class Benjamin Harper, 436th Aerial Port Squadron fleet service specialist, demonstrated for Keller how the lavatory service truck provides waste removal and servicing to C-5Ms, as well as other aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Dr. Donna Senft, Air Mobility Command chief scientist, left, and Sara Keller, AMC Logistics, Engineering, Force Protection deputy director, both assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., listen to Jim Ewing, 436th Aerial Port Squadron operations manager, explain pallet build up and processing of oversized cargo by aerial port personnel Feb. 7, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Senft and Keller were part of AMC’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team that observed practices and procedures used by Super Port personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

Dr. Donna Senft, Air Mobility Command chief scientist, left, and Sara Keller, AMC Logistics, Engineering, Force Protection deputy director, both assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Ill., listen to Jim Ewing, 436th Aerial Port Squadron operations manager, explain pallet build up and processing of oversized cargo by aerial port personnel Feb. 7, 2017, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Senft and Keller were part of AMC’s “Aerial Port of the Future” study team that observed practices and procedures used by Super Port personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

A team of scientists and Senior Executive Service officials from Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observe daily aerial port-wide operations and procedures of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, Feb. 7, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. The two-day study called “Aerial Port of the Future” included live demonstrations of the Cargo Terminal, Cargo Yard, Passenger Terminal, Fleet Building and cargo loading/off-loading on the flight line. Dover’s Super Port has been chosen by AMC to be used as a model for all other aerial ports in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

A team of scientists and Senior Executive Service officials from Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observe daily aerial port-wide operations and procedures of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, Feb. 7, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. The two-day study called “Aerial Port of the Future” included live demonstrations of the Cargo Terminal, Cargo Yard, Passenger Terminal, Fleet Building and cargo loading/off-loading on the flight line. Dover’s Super Port has been chosen by AMC to be used as a model for all other aerial ports in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

A team of scientists and Senior Executive Service officials from Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observe daily aerial port-wide operations and procedures of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, Feb. 7, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. The two-day study called “Aerial Port of the Future” included live demonstrations of the Cargo Terminal, Cargo Yard, Passenger Terminal, Fleet Building and cargo loading/off-loading on the flight line. Dover’s Super Port has been chosen by AMC to be used as a model for all other aerial ports in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

A team of scientists and Senior Executive Service officials from Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., observe daily aerial port-wide operations and procedures of the 436th Aerial Port Squadron, Feb. 7, 2017, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. The two-day study called “Aerial Port of the Future” included live demonstrations of the Cargo Terminal, Cargo Yard, Passenger Terminal, Fleet Building and cargo loading/off-loading on the flight line. Dover’s Super Port has been chosen by AMC to be used as a model for all other aerial ports in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Approximately 25 scientists and researchers from research labs around the Department of Defense visited the 436th Aerial Port Squadron Feb. 6-9, 2017, to kick off a new initiative: The Aerial Port of the Future.

The visit was the second of a three-stop tour of port operation facilities around the country in an effort to learn current operational requirements and processes, see how Third Offset Technology can improve aerial port efficiency and safety, and conceptualize the impacts such improvements could have on AMC’s rapid global mobility and the DOD as a whole, said Dr. Donna Senft, AMC chief scientist and Aerial Port of the Future project lead.

Third Offset Strategy is the Defense Department’s initiative to create U.S. military advantage based on technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence, combined with new operational concepts.

The inspiration for the project came from the Air Force Future Operating Concept, which contained a vignette of someone’s personal vision of what aerial port operations might look like in the year 2035. This brief description of advanced computer programming and autonomous robotics set in motion a concerted effort to research current aerial port operations and develop a ‘roadmap’ toward a safer and more efficient Aerial Port of the Future.

“That was somebody’s dream, but it got us thinking,” Senft said. “We wanted to get the experts in the science and technology community and the acquisitions community together and see what we could do to improve aerial port operations. A big part of that is looking at the science of autonomy and improved automation. We asked ourselves, could we take some of this emerging technology and apply it to aerial port operations?”

From there, a study team was established and several trips were planned. The first stop was at Port of Virginia, Norfolk, Virginia, where the team saw autonomous cargo handling equipment used by the commercial operation.

They then visited Dover AFB and the 436th APS, the largest aerial port in the DOD, commonly called the ‘Super Port.'

For the final leg, the team intends to visit three commercial warehouses in the Seattle, Washington, area to observe the current cutting-edge robotics and command and control programming.

“We selected Dover AFB because of its Super Port status,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Coombs, Headquarters AMC passenger and fleet policy branch superintendent. “This is the biggest AMC base and port on the East Coast. When we think of workload and get-it-done initiative and motivation, we think of Dover. What they’re doing right now is basically setting the baseline impression for what we’re capable of doing as aerial porters in our mission for DOD.”

While here, they visited every section within the squadron, interacted with Airmen as they demonstrated core tasks and followed a piece of cargo from initial acceptance through processing, pallet buildup, K-Loader transportation and aircraft upload and offload.

“This particular visit is really unique, because these researchers did not know what we do until we showed them here at Dover,” Coombs said. “This aerial port team has been outstanding in exposing them to the rigors of what it takes to be an aerial porter.”

Coombs acted as a liaison between the researchers and squadron members. She said her 21 years of experience in all levels and positions of air transportation uniquely qualified her for the duty.

“There were a lot of great ideas being generated in the sidebar conversations and throughout the whole visit,” Coombs said. “[The researchers] got to interact with the port team: the leadership, the young Airmen and the fired-up NCOs. Airmen came up to us on several occasions with ideas for improvement, and at this point we’re encouraging all ideas.”

 “This visit [to Dover AFB] in particular has really invigorated our team,” Senft said. “We’re just coming up with all sorts of ideas. We really appreciate the time Team Dover put into our visit and their effort to put these tours together to show us how they do their work every day.”