Ryan Beall is a highly accomplished individual with a diverse background in the field of Unmanned Aerial Systems for both public and private organizations. Following a ten year career as a naval aviator, Beall co-founded RogueSquadron, now a Defense Digital Service organization. He currently serves as the CEO of Tilt Autonomy. Previously, Beall was the Chief Engineer for the rotary wing UAS Ghost at Anduril. Beall also worked as the Principle Engineer on the Perpetual Electric Group 2 UAV (solar-powered) at Kraus Hamdani Aerospace.
Beall holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, an MS in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and a second MS in Defense Technology and Systems from the National University of Singapore. Beall's diverse experiences and academic achievements continue to drive his contributions to the UAS realm, making significant strides in defense solutions and technology.
My time at the Naval Postgraduate School significantly contributed to my growth as an engineer. The Systems Engineering program equipped me with a multidisciplinary understanding of complex systems, refining my analytical and critical thinking abilities. Collaborating with diverse professionals broadened my perspective, emphasizing practical applications and real-world problem-solving. Understanding the warfighter's needs has been integral to my work at Rogue Squadron, guiding me to create effective solutions for drone technology challenges.
An education from NPS is a crucial factor in fostering innovation and technological advancements within the DOD. The specialized programs, particularly in Systems Engineering, provided me with a deep understanding of both legacy and contemporary systems. This knowledge sheds insight into how similar techniques from the past can be applied to create innovative solutions using modern hardware. By combining historical context with up-to-date expertise, NPS encourages creative problem-solving and empowers engineers to design solutions that meet the specific needs of military operations.
NPS' emphasis on practical applications, a user-centric approach, and collaboration further enhance the impact of its education. Engaging with diverse professionals fosters a rich exchange of ideas, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and a broader perspective on potential solutions. Access to cutting-edge research facilities and strong networking with industry partners facilitate the translation of research outcomes into tangible applications, accelerating the development of innovative technologies.
My interest in UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and counter-UAS technologies was initially sparked during my undergraduate studies at the US Naval Academy in aerospace engineering. There, I had the opportunity to design miniature autopilot hardware and software for drones, exposing me to potential red team uses that we are now seeing on the battlefield today. This early exposure to UAS technology ignited my passion for exploring the potential applications of drones in both offensive and defensive contexts.
Over the years, my interest in UAS and counter-UAS technologies has grown significantly. As I progressed through my education and career, I witnessed the rapid advancements in unmanned systems and their increasing integration into various industries, including defense. My experiences at the Naval Postgraduate School and co-founding Rogue Squadron allowed me to delve deeper into evaluating drone technology from the warfighter's perspective. Understanding how UAS could be utilized effectively in military operations and how counter-UAS measures were necessary to mitigate potential threats became a focal point of my work.
Moreover, my role as the chief engineer of the rotary wing UAS called Ghost at Anduril further solidified my dedication to this field. Conducting record-breaking long endurance flights at Kraus Hamdani Aerospace with both fixed-wing and VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) group two aircraft demonstrated the immense potential and versatility of UAS in various operational scenarios.
The continuous evolution of UAS and their increasing significance in modern warfare has been a driving force behind my sustained focus in this field. I am driven by the idea that UAS technology can revolutionize military operations, providing valuable intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat capabilities. However, this progress also brings the need for robust counter-UAS solutions to safeguard against potential threats posed by malicious or unauthorized drones.
The ongoing war in Ukraine has vividly demonstrated the critical importance of drones on the battlefield. The conflict has highlighted the transformation in warfare dynamics, where the price mismatch between a relatively inexpensive $2,000 drone that is capable of taking out a costly $1 million tank has shifted the strategic landscape. Drones have proven to be highly effective in providing real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, enabling forces to gather vital information, identify enemy positions, and assess the battlefield rapidly. Their ability to conduct precision strikes with minimal risk to human operators has reshaped tactical approaches and underscores the significance of unmanned systems in modern military operations. The Ukraine conflict serves as a stark reminder that advancements in drone technology are reshaping the traditional notions of warfare, emphasizing the need for robust UAS development and counter-UAS measures to maintain a competitive edge in future conflicts.
The effectiveness of drones on the battlefield was met with a notable challenge during the conflict in Ukraine when adversaries resorted to GPS jamming to disrupt UAS operations. This interference highlighted the need for innovative solutions to address such vulnerabilities. In response, I have been focusing my efforts on developing countermeasures using techniques that draw inspiration from historical approaches, including those used in World War II. By leveraging similar principles of resilience and redundancy employed in the past, I aim to design and implement novel methods that can mitigate the impact of GPS jamming on drone operations. As the landscape of modern warfare evolves, the development of robust counter-UAS technologies becomes increasingly crucial to maintaining the effectiveness and advantage of unmanned systems on the battlefield.
Rogue Squadron was set apart from traditional DOD organizations by its unique cultural and organizational factors that enabled rapid response capabilities. One crucial aspect was its focus on agility and adaptability. Unlike larger and more bureaucratic military units, Rogue Squadron operated with a flatter hierarchy, allowing for quicker decision-making and streamlined communication. This agile structure empowered personnel to respond rapidly to emerging challenges and opportunities, facilitating the swift implementation of innovative solutions.
Another defining factor was the emphasis on cross-functional collaboration. Rogue Squadron brought together a diverse team of both uniformed military personnel and civilian experts with specialized skills in various fields, including engineering, technology, and data analysis. This collaboration created a dynamic and synergistic environment, where different perspectives and expertise merged to tackle complex problems from multiple angles. The seamless integration of uniformed and civilian professionals ensured a well-rounded approach, enhancing the squadron's ability to move quickly and effectively.
Moreover, the close collaboration between uniformed personnel and civilian experts enabled a unique knowledge exchange. Military personnel provided valuable insights into operational requirements and challenges, while civilian experts contributed cutting-edge technological knowledge and innovative solutions. This symbiotic relationship fostered a deep understanding of the warfighter's perspective, ensuring that the solutions developed by Rogue Squadron were not only innovative but also practical and operationally relevant.
The absence of traditional bureaucratic red tape and a culture of open communication further accelerated Rogue Squadron's rapid response capabilities. Decisions were made quickly, and ideas were implemented without unnecessary delays. The organization's emphasis on learning from both successes and failures fostered a culture of continuous improvement, encouraging the pursuit of novel approaches and the ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances.
Another of the key factors that set Rogue Squadron apart and contributed to its success in solving pressing problems was its unique structure designed explicitly for direct problem-solving. Unlike the traditional paradigm in the DOD, which primarily revolves around training warfighters to be tacticians using hardware provided by the defense industrial base through FAR-based contracting, Rogue Squadron adopted a different approach. The team was structured specifically to address salient challenges directly, with turnaround times measured in hours and days, rather than years. This dynamic and nimble approach enabled the team to rapidly identify and implement innovative solutions to real-world issues.
The success of Rogue Squadron highlights the need for the DOD to embrace a more explicit warfighting skillset focused on direct problem-solving. Creating dedicated teams with the purpose of swiftly addressing emerging challenges and leveraging cutting-edge technology is crucial to maintaining a competitive edge in modern warfare. By fostering a culture of innovation, agility, and collaboration between uniformed personnel and civilian experts, the DOD can enhance its ability to respond quickly to evolving threats and opportunities. Establishing structures like Rogue Squadron throughout the military would enable the DOD to proactively tackle today's most critical challenges and capitalize on new technological advancements, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of defense innovation.
NPS can play a significant role in fostering the exchange of knowledge and expertise between different organizations involved in autonomous and UAS technologies, such as government agencies, industry, and international partners, through several innovative approaches.
· Establishing an Incubator Program: Building on the idea from Rogue Squadron, NPS could create an incubator-like program where officers and enlisted personnel work alongside civilian experts and industry professionals. This program would focus on identifying and nurturing talent with the potential to lead teams similar to Rogue Squadron, encouraging cross-collaboration and skill development. By providing a platform for these teams to work on real-world projects and challenges, NPS could facilitate knowledge exchange and foster a culture of innovation.
· Promoting Industry-Government-Academia Collaborations: NPS could actively encourage collaborations between industry partners, government agencies, and academia through joint research projects and technology exchange programs. By facilitating partnerships and sharing resources, NPS could create an ecosystem that promotes the exchange of expertise and the development of cutting-edge solutions in autonomous and UAS technologies.
· Focus on Practical Outcomes: Shifting the paradigm of deliverables from purely academic papers to tangible outcomes on the battlefield could further enhance knowledge exchange. Requiring students to demonstrate the practical application and effectiveness of their research in real-world scenarios would not only benefit defense organizations but also provide valuable feedback for future research and development.
· Industry Sponsorship and Engagement: NPS can actively seek industry sponsorship and engagement for research and development projects. By involving industry partners in the educational process, students can gain exposure to real-world challenges and access industry-specific insights, while industry partners benefit from the expertise and research capabilities of NPS.
Innovation often requires a willingness to challenge conventional thinking and established practices. How does and how can NPS better encourage and support individuals to think creatively and propose innovative solutions in emerging tech areas like autonomous and unmanned systems?
To foster innovation across all areas of study, NPS should actively identify and support trailblazers through an incubation-like program. By recognizing and nurturing these individuals, NPS can use its influence to provide top cover from bureaucratic challenges and secure post-graduation funding. Empowering these pioneers with an official charter to tackle real-world problems while utilizing a transparent and fast-paced accountability feedback loop will foster creative thinking and encourage innovative solutions to flourish. This approach will create a dynamic environment where cutting-edge ideas can quickly translate into impactful advancements, establishing NPS as a leader in various fields of study and technology development.