Renewable Energy for Chemical Weapon Detector Wins 2019 Spark Tank Contest

Spark Tank winner MSgt. Jonathan Maas stands with his trophy as he's congratulated by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Mark Cuban, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David Goldfein, CMSAF Kaleth Wright, George Steinbrenner IV, and others at the Air Force Association 2019 Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., February 28, 2019. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

MSgt. Jonathan Maas and his prototype of a new, renewable-energy-based chemical agent detector is the winner of the 2019 Spark Tank.

Maas was selected from six entrants for the Spark Tank prize, which includes approval for initial funding to bring his idea to life. Maas, who is assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB, Germany, developed a solar-based power system for a Joint Chemical Agent Detector. The JCAD, which currently runs on AA batteries, is a small detector placed around airfields that is used to detect and alarm if a chemical warfare agent is released.

The prototype uses a solar panel, along with backup internal battery packs and a power outlet, to run the detector. This saves airmen time and money by avoiding daily battery changes.

“With this device fielded throughout the Air Force, we could save millions of dollars in battery and manpower cost, while reducing literally tons of hazardous waste,” Maas said.

The Spark Tank award was voted on by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, and an online poll, along with celebrity guests Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner IV. Maas asked for $400,000 to develop and deploy 300 prototypes at USAF locations around the world.

The other finalists were a 3D printed fail-safe device for cargo parachutes, software to emulate an MQ-9 to check data links, a respirator and communication system for maintenance airmen who work in tight spaces, software to more quickly compile weather forecast data, and a semi-tractor trailer to carry equipment needed to stand up deployed aircraft.