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Re: [AWECS] ARPA-E prize competition

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  • Dave Lang
    ... Dimitre, Ha, well you re probably right about that, in fact I think it s about Beer:30 pm right now :-) Seriously though, I agree with you, something is
    Message 1 of 12 , May 27, 2011
      Re: [AWECS] ARPA-E prize competition
      At 7:20 PM +0000 5/27/11, dimitri.cherny wrote:
       
      Hey Dave, sounds like you need a beer.

      Dimitre,

      Ha, well you're probably right about that, in fact I think it's about "Beer:30 pm" right now :-)

      Seriously though, I agree with you, "something is better than nothing"! Maybe all their motives are honorable, but it is curious that this first inkling of admittance that anyone else is out there except the "big-2" follows closely on the footsteps of the DaveS's "wakeup call" (the FOI act breathes terror in the hearts of .gov'ers). For instance, why didn't ARAP-E see that maybe their late-night grant to Makani might have been a delightful prize that could have been distributed to, say, the top 3 contenders, to seriously jump-start them along to the point of realistic prototype demonstrations, and level their playing field to that of JOBY and Makani (BTW, I have no ill will towards either, they have simply been the recipients of good fortunate at this point).

      At any rate, the question is, if ARPA-E are serious, then:

      1. what is a proposed timeline,
      2. who is their "point of contact",
      3. how is the prize-budget being negotiated, with whom, and for how much?
      4. etc, etc

      BTW, Dave North's office has also alluded to such a type of competition also....but NASA is clearly not in any budgetary mood to want to pony up prize money for this - indeed Dave North seems to have to fight for every little cent he gets to just try to cover what is in fact going on with us AWE'ers.

      At any rate, I guess I am all ears until I have reason to believe that this is just smoke and mirrors, and not get mired down in an endless morass.

      DaveL






      I agree it's pretty lame by comparison but it's still recognition by the US government that our nascent industry is being taken seriously (or at least it will look that way to investors). At the very least this is a "reason to call" all the investors we've already met with and get the conversation restarted.

      Since we can define the contest, we can set the bar as high or low as we think necessary to TRULY support the development of an "industry" not just a single winner.

      For example: that milestone I described is likely far in the future and requiring hundreds of thousands if not millions in development costs to achieve (especially if we believe Makani and Joby used their funds wisely).

      Perhaps that milestone is phase-2 in this prize. Perhaps phase-1 is something much more attainable by many developers but still thins the field to separate practical and serious design efforts from others. Perhaps phase-1 of the contest provides a few hundred thousand to a dozen companies who can then work on attaining phase-2. That would support ARPA-E's desire to kick start a new industry much better than your space elevator example. If government workers get recognition for the success of the programs they support, I would think they'd be tickled to make this as incisive as possible - not just a single winner.

      -Dimitri

      --- In AirborneWindEnergy@yahoogroups.com, Dave Lang <SeattleDL@...> wrote:
      >
      > Dimitri,
      >
      > While I too applaud DaveS for rattling the ARPA-E cage, it is rather
      > lame that ARPA-E laid $3M on Makani to go "do their thing" while the
      > rest of us are now (maybe) being given a chance to engage in a
      > Cage-Fight to claim the spoils of some undisclosed amount of "prize
      > money" (probably less than than the Makani grant), said prototyping
      > effort being paid for by us - not ARPA-E.
      >
      > I was a fairly intimate witness (doing climbing-tether analyses) to
      > one of the more recent "prizes" sponsored by NASA for the Space
      > Elevator. It is a great way for .gov agencies to get everyone to fund
      > their own prototypes, and if something works out really well, then
      > GREAT, they claim credit for innovation, as well as stimulating and
      > encouraging the AWE field.....They don't have to do their homework,
      > they don't have to stick their necks out, they don't have to make
      > tough decisions, etc - while if nothing comes forth, they don't even
      > have to cough-up the prize money (and can even say "I told you so",
      > or "we were just trying to stimulate innovation, just like what we
      > did for makani", etc)....it is a NO LOSE proposition for them. The
      > NASA Elevator prize has been going on for over 4 years now, and NASA
      > still hasn't had to cough up the entire prize-pot yet.
      >
      > I think the ARPA-E thing may be a result of fear of embarrassment at
      > the hands of a Public Disclosure (over the Makani deal)....nothing
      > gets the attention of the government official like the fear of
      > being shown to have engaged in some sort of malfeasance on the job!
      >
      > In the case of SkyMill, I would guess that if we have provided the
      > funds personally to build and successfully fly a legitimate
      > aerospace-scale prototype we would NOT go near ARPA-E, rather just go
      > directly for real-funding in the business world.
      >
      > just my 2-cents worth.
      >
      > DaveL
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > At 4:13 AM +0000 5/27/11, dimitri.cherny wrote:
      > >
      > >
      > >Thanks to Dave Santos' sense of injustice and persistence, followed
      > >up by some conversation here, ARPA-E wants to sponsor and fund an
      > >AWE competition of "our" design. (This is one of those rare "be
      > >careful what you ask for"' moments in life.).
      > >
      > >I finally connected with ARPA-E's acting chief counsel, Matt Dunne.
      > >They will not provide development funds but were granted by Congress
      > >last December the ability to fund prize competitions. AWE would be
      > >their first. Normal ARPA-E funding restrictions apply - found on
      > >their website.
      > >
      > >The monkey is now on our backs to design the competition and define
      > >the prize(s) which could be cash, contracts, additional funding
      > >opps, etc.. They don't want to see our proposal until it's pretty
      > >well finalized. I suggested we could get it done before the end of
      > >the summer.
      > >
      > >They're also looking for a program manager for AWE... if you know of
      > >anyone suited for the position...
      > >
      > >I think we should start by defining what AWE system milestone(s) and
      > >characteristics would clearly distinguish commercially viable
      > >contenders, then come up with a way to have an independent third
      > >party (NASA?) verify the performance of the contenders.
      > >
      > >I'm hopeful that a public announcement of the competition by ARPA-E
      > >in early fall, will provide the legitimacy we've been waiting for
      > >which will push some investors off the fence and get them to take
      > >out their checkbooks.
      > >
      > >Let the discussion begin.
      > >
      > >- Dimitri Cherny
      > >Highest Wind LLC
      > >801.810.5709
      > >
      > >
      >

    • dimitri.cherny
      Message 2 of 12 , May 27, 2011
        --- In AirborneWindEnergy@yahoogroups.com, Dave Lang <SeattleDL@...> wrote:

        > At any rate, the question is, if ARPA-E are serious, then:
        >
        > 1. what is a proposed timeline,
        @@@ they'd like to get the prize competition defined and set up and announced this year. Sounded like our construction of the program will take longer than anything else. As this is the first time they will do this type of contest, I think we have an opportunity to frame it in a way that could be different from the space elevator contest, the x-prizes, and other "limited winners" type contests. More like "European rules"' game boards.

        > 2. who is their "point of contact",
        @@@ For the time being Matt Dunne, acting chief counsel. However, as I mentioned, they're seeking a program manager for AWE. It would be best if it were someone we know. When our prize competition plan is complete to our satisfaction, we will start more intensely interacting with more ARPA-E people.

        > 3. how is the prize-budget being negotiated, with whom, and for how much?
        @@@ don't know any of that yet, bit it's up to us to put a stake in the ground and then defend the reasons for it's position. Let's take first steps first and figure out the phases of the ideal prize contest to be most inclusive of the most AWE ideas. Then determine an ideal amount we'd each be almost satisfied winning.
        > 4. etc, etc
        >
        > BTW, Dave North's office has also alluded to such a type of
        > competition also....but NASA is clearly not in any budgetary mood to
        > want to pony up prize money for this - indeed Dave North seems to
        > have to fight for every little cent he gets to just try to cover what
        > is in fact going on with us AWE'ers.
        >
        > At any rate, I guess I am all ears until I have reason to believe
        > that this is just smoke and mirrors, and not get mired down in an
        > endless morass.
        >
        > DaveL
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > >I agree it's pretty lame by comparison but it's still recognition by
        > >the US government that our nascent industry is being taken seriously
        > >(or at least it will look that way to investors). At the very least
        > >this is a "reason to call" all the investors we've already met with
        > >and get the conversation restarted.
        > >
        > >Since we can define the contest, we can set the bar as high or low
        > >as we think necessary to TRULY support the development of an
        > >"industry" not just a single winner.
        > >
        > >For example: that milestone I described is likely far in the future
        > >and requiring hundreds of thousands if not millions in development
        > >costs to achieve (especially if we believe Makani and Joby used
        > >their funds wisely).
        > >
        > >Perhaps that milestone is phase-2 in this prize. Perhaps phase-1 is
        > >something much more attainable by many developers but still thins
        > >the field to separate practical and serious design efforts from
        > >others. Perhaps phase-1 of the contest provides a few hundred
        > >thousand to a dozen companies who can then work on attaining
        > >phase-2. That would support ARPA-E's desire to kick start a new
        > >industry much better than your space elevator example. If government
        > >workers get recognition for the success of the programs they
        > >support, I would think they'd be tickled to make this as incisive as
        > >possible - not just a single winner.
        > >
        > >-Dimitri
        > >
        > >--- In
        > ><mailto:AirborneWindEnergy%40yahoogroups.com>AirborneWindEnergy@yahoogroups.com,
        > >Dave Lang <SeattleDL@> wrote:
        > >>
        > >> Dimitri,
        > >>
        > >> While I too applaud DaveS for rattling the ARPA-E cage, it is rather
        > >> lame that ARPA-E laid $3M on Makani to go "do their thing" while the
        > >> rest of us are now (maybe) being given a chance to engage in a
        > >> Cage-Fight to claim the spoils of some undisclosed amount of "prize
        > >> money" (probably less than than the Makani grant), said prototyping
        > >> effort being paid for by us - not ARPA-E.
        > >>
        > >> I was a fairly intimate witness (doing climbing-tether analyses) to
        > >> one of the more recent "prizes" sponsored by NASA for the Space
        > >> Elevator. It is a great way for .gov agencies to get everyone to fund
        > >> their own prototypes, and if something works out really well, then
        > >> GREAT, they claim credit for innovation, as well as stimulating and
        > >> encouraging the AWE field.....They don't have to do their homework,
        > >> they don't have to stick their necks out, they don't have to make
        > > > tough decisions, etc - while if nothing comes forth, they don't even
        > >> have to cough-up the prize money (and can even say "I told you so",
        > >> or "we were just trying to stimulate innovation, just like what we
        > >> did for makani", etc)....it is a NO LOSE proposition for them. The
        > >> NASA Elevator prize has been going on for over 4 years now, and NASA
        > >> still hasn't had to cough up the entire prize-pot yet.
        > >>
        > >> I think the ARPA-E thing may be a result of fear of embarrassment at
        > >> the hands of a Public Disclosure (over the Makani deal)....nothing
        > >> gets the attention of the government official like the fear of
        > >> being shown to have engaged in some sort of malfeasance on the job!
        > >>
        > >> In the case of SkyMill, I would guess that if we have provided the
        > >> funds personally to build and successfully fly a legitimate
        > >> aerospace-scale prototype we would NOT go near ARPA-E, rather just go
        > >> directly for real-funding in the business world.
        > >>
        > >> just my 2-cents worth.
        > >>
        > >> DaveL
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >>
        > >> At 4:13 AM +0000 5/27/11, dimitri.cherny wrote:
        > >> >
        > >> >
        > >> >Thanks to Dave Santos' sense of injustice and persistence, followed
        > >> >up by some conversation here, ARPA-E wants to sponsor and fund an
        > >> >AWE competition of "our" design. (This is one of those rare "be
        > >> >careful what you ask for"' moments in life.).
        > >> >
        > >> >I finally connected with ARPA-E's acting chief counsel, Matt Dunne.
        > >> >They will not provide development funds but were granted by Congress
        > >> >last December the ability to fund prize competitions. AWE would be
        > >> >their first. Normal ARPA-E funding restrictions apply - found on
        > >> >their website.
        > >> >
        > >> >The monkey is now on our backs to design the competition and define
        > >> >the prize(s) which could be cash, contracts, additional funding
        > >> >opps, etc.. They don't want to see our proposal until it's pretty
        > >> >well finalized. I suggested we could get it done before the end of
        > >> >the summer.
        > >> >
        > >> >They're also looking for a program manager for AWE... if you know of
        > >> >anyone suited for the position...
        > >> >
        > >> >I think we should start by defining what AWE system milestone(s) and
        > >> >characteristics would clearly distinguish commercially viable
        > >> >contenders, then come up with a way to have an independent third
        > >> >party (NASA?) verify the performance of the contenders.
        > >> >
        > >> >I'm hopeful that a public announcement of the competition by ARPA-E
        > >> >in early fall, will provide the legitimacy we've been waiting for
        > >> >which will push some investors off the fence and get them to take
        > >> >out their checkbooks.
        > >> >
        > >> >Let the discussion begin.
        > >> >
        > >> >- Dimitri Cherny
        > >> >Highest Wind LLC
        > >> >801.810.5709
        > >> >
        > >> >
        > >>
        > >
        > >
        >
      • dimitri.cherny
        Hey Bob, For that phase of the contest I was thinking NASA s Wallops might be used. Maybe winds would only allow some lower percentage but I think we all get
        Message 3 of 12 , May 27, 2011
          Hey Bob,

          For that phase of the contest I was thinking NASA's Wallops might be used. Maybe winds would only allow some lower percentage but I think we all get the point - these things have stay in the air a month or more to be commercially viable.

          Though I suggest we don't say anything about automatic operations. Some people think the evolution of AWE will require human-controlled vehicles. No reason a team with a handful of operators couldn't compete over a month.

          Interesting idea of adding wind speed operations ranges. The best AWE would certainly have a broad flight envelope. Though we might not have to explicitly define that. Systems with narrow wind ranges may just wash out over the month for not staying aloft enough or not producing enough energy. This is supposed to be a "fly-off" so these things should be required to fly a good long time. Good point for discussion.

          -Dimitri
        • Bob Stuart
          Well, I, for one, would not travel to the U.S. until the rule of law returns. Bob
          Message 4 of 12 , May 27, 2011
            Well, I, for one, would not travel to the U.S. until the rule of law returns.

            Bob

            On 27-May-11, at 4:49 PM, dimitri.cherny wrote:

            Hey Bob, 

            For that phase of the contest I was thinking NASA's Wallops might be used. Maybe winds would only allow some lower percentage but I think we all get the point - these things have stay in the air a month or more to be commercially viable. 

            Though I suggest we don't say anything about automatic operations. Some people think the evolution of AWE will require human-controlled vehicles. No reason a team with a handful of operators couldn't compete over a month. 

            Interesting idea of adding wind speed operations ranges. The best AWE would certainly have a broad flight envelope. Though we might not have to explicitly define that. Systems with narrow wind ranges may just wash out over the month for not staying aloft enough or not producing enough energy. This is supposed to be a "fly-off" so these things should be required to fly a good long time. Good point for discussion. 

            -Dimitri


          • Doug
            I think we should be careful about rules that presuppose structure or operational details. For example, requiring 30 days of continuous operation might want
            Message 5 of 12 , May 29, 2011
              I think we should be careful about rules that presuppose structure or operational details. For example, requiring 30 days of "continuous operation" might want to take into account a system that launched and retracted every time the wind got strong then weak again.

              On the other hand, "launch and landing" might be an oxymoron for a system that doesn't launch or land, but always stays up, perhaps elevated by the wind when the wind blows, but is still elevated by some other means when the wind does not blow.

              That's one example.
              Another example: specifying "kites", "tethers" when such may not be included in some system that nonetheless works.

              This is a persistent problem trying to reconcile bureaucracy and rules with cutting edge innovation and disruptive technology! Think about it: how do you construct rules for stuff having largely unknown characteristics?

              Imagine a competition for high-speed cross-country travel in the 1800's, perhaps specifying the wheel separation to fit standard tracks, not knowing that the airplane was just around the corner!

              I say, let's try and keep things as generic and open as possible, not presuppose anything that could unconsciously preclude a best working system.

              Just my 2 cents

              :)
              Doug Selsam

              --- In AirborneWindEnergy@yahoogroups.com, "dimitri.cherny" <dimitri.cherny@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > Hey Dave, just to be sure you read it correctly. ARPA-E will provide no money upfront. A prize or prizes (our choice and our design with their agreement) will be given to the "winners" of a competition (also of our design with their agreement). Matt specifically said "you are the AWE experts so you determine what constitutes a winner of a fly-off". This will be more like the X-prize than anything else.
              >
              > Therefore I see no reason for everyone to individually submit proposals. Instead, collaboratively we must develop a set of milestones and characteristics that clearly separate a commercially viable AWE system from other things.
              >
              > To that end, i will get the discussion started by putting on the table my personal milestones.
              > 1. 30 days of continuous flight (95% flight time allowing for weather etc.).
              > 2. No system components replaced or repaired during those 30 days.
              > 3. Demonstration of at least two cycles of "hands off" launch and landing during those 30 days.
              > 4. Energy production during those 30 days equal to some fraction of the system components cost -TBD.
              > 5. Net-Energy gain during those 30 days.
              >
              > To me, that sounds like a good milestone on the way to a commercially viable AWE system.
              >
              > --- In AirborneWindEnergy@yahoogroups.com, dave santos <santos137@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Great News, Dimitri,
              > > �
              > > Dave Lang is clearly our most qualified & experienced candidate for an ARPA-E�AWE R&D Manager & we could hand over�the US community�representative role to him right away (anybody got objections or a better choice?). Dimitri seems well suited to continue a role as a facilitator & junior manager. JoeF is an obvious asset to coordinate the knowledge fire-hose. As for competition judges, they need to be a diverse set of�great�folks�with no direct conflict of interest, like a Fort Felker, Dave North,�Wayne German, or Scott Skinner. A "competition" at 1/4 scale to 2000ft max�makes a lot of sense, but it would be�smart to carefully design the program to�generate the best science & give every meritorious participant a path to collaborate on continued work on the�strongest concepts. Its�key that Academia play an essential "third-party" validation role. A reasonable timeframe is to develop a proposal in about three months, with perhaps a year to
              > > conclude the first round of activity. We can also merge this program with the EU-driven initiatives for best sceince &�cash-match. International cooperation is really essential to best develop AWE.
              > > �
              > > Everyone wanting to compete with specific designs should begin to draft�a minimal budget to combine into�our group proposal which might be in the three-to-five-million range. A hundred thousand dollars per small competitor & somewhat more for large teams�is a reasonable level of funding to prepare a trial with, but keep in mind that cost -ffectiveness�will be�a top judging criteria, so direct technology costs must be low to be a really�favored concept.
              > > �
              > > Done well, this program will result in follow-on funding for the strong ideas.
              > >
              >
            • Joe Faust
              Some AWECS concepts without tether to ground: Buoyancy-changing
              Message 6 of 12 , May 29, 2011

                Some AWECS concepts without tether to ground:

                Buoyancy-changing

                Dual Kite

                Auxiliary onboard RATs

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