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Deploying the Digital Wingman

18 September 2021
Lauren Meador & Derek Hardin

Many current essential Air Force data processes require personnel to repetitively update, input and manually enter information. These processes are often further exacerbated due to the hundreds of legacy systems in use, some of which are interdependent, relying upon constant data verification and validation. These actions may require excessive amounts of manpower expenditures to maintain system fidelity.

The Rapid Sustainment Office is working to accelerate readiness, reduce manual labor, and decrease costs for processes essential to the operation and sustainment of the Air Force through the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

We have partnered with Invoke, an automation solutions company based in Atlanta, to implement RPA as a service to streamline several manpower intensive process areas related to flight authorizations, air and ground space planning, and maintenance work orders. This software provides a scalable solution to rapidly deploy unattended software robots to execute tasks that require excessive amounts of workforce intervention, preventing costly mistakes. 

In August 2020, our partnership successfully implemented the DoD’s first cloud-based, unattended RPA capability for Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt AFB. This digital wingman is currently being utilized to create flight authorizations for the CV-22 squadron, completing the task in half the time of an extremely proficient human. The big win is that the RPA tool can perfectly analyze a complex Excel spreadsheet and update its corresponding PDF quickly without error.  Estimates are that the automation will return 600 hours annually for this squadron.  During this time, the user can be completing other important mission tasks.

Master Sergeant Hannah Holst, who is currently utilizing the solution with AFSOC, noted that the digital wingman has reduced the number of errors in her bi-weekly case orders to zero.

“The overall benefit for squadrons that manually cut orders like this is indescribable,” she added.  

This technology will have an increasingly overarching impact on the Air Force as we expand the digital wingman to additional squadrons and to other laborious processes to improve efficiency and accuracy. In partnership with Invoke, we are currently demonstrating the solution for the other squadrons at Hurlburt. 

The utilization of RPA systems is becoming increasingly important in supporting the RSO’s objective of increasing mission readiness by identifying, applying, and scaling technology essential to the operation and sustainment of the Air Force.