Having won a United States Air Force SBIR Phase I in 2021, a Phase II in 2022, and a direct to Phase II in 2023, Michael Adam, Chief Executive Officer of Adam Aerospace Corporation, Chairman of Wisconsin Aerospace Partners and blockchain expert, has cracked the code for SBIR funding.
“At the core, Adam Aerospace provides solution that protects critical data in aerospace, defense and critical infrastructure,” said Adam.
The premise behind Adam’s first two SBIR contracts was to protect aircraft data using blockchain based critical data verification. Every aircraft in the Air Force requires software updates for things like maps, charts, airport runway systems, etc. These updates occur frequently and the process for accomplishing these updates is out of date involving information passed between multiple parties sometimes in physical form. Each step of the way, there’s a risk of data being corrupted, whether it’s manually and accidental or by malicious intent.
Adam’s product aims to make this process more secure, universal, and efficient. His product would allow information from The National Geospatial Agency to go through his system directly into an aircraft using cryptographic signatures and his blockchain system to verify it at any point.
“We will protect it at every stage of the way,” said Adam. “We’ll check the information to make sure it has not been tampered with for its entire life. For Phase II, this product would go even further to run in flight to see if anybody’s trying to screw with that data while airborne. We can run it in increments of every minute, every 5 minutes every 10 seconds whatever you would want it to be. That’s just the low hanging fruit, there’s so many more implications and use cases as far as engine data, communications within the airplane, mission planning, etc.”
Adam’s new direct to Phase II applies a similar system to Air Force personnel records. Throughout all military members’ time in service, many records and documents are accumulated including medical and financial records, as well as official orders. In the process of transferring units, branches, or retiring, documents can be lost. Adam aims to use blockchain to create what he called a “document wallet”.
“Anytime you get a new document or a new record, it comes into our system,” said Adam. “It’s all cloud based, and you have access to it depending on what the Air Force will you do with it. Maybe you can share it, maybe you can’t, but at least now you have a secure backup system. So, when you go to the next phase or should you retire from the Air Force, you’re not given a big stack of paper or your information’s not lost somehow.”
Adam says that blockchain has received a bad reputation in the investment community and some of the tech community because people have either forgotten about it or they got sick of hearing about it. Part of what drives him is to prove to those people that it’s valuable and relevant.
“I love it because we have millions of dollars of contracts from the Department of Defense and we’re really using this in the way it should be used as an audit protocol or and as a data verification protocol,” said Adam. “I love proving people wrong that technology does work and it’s really awesome. It’s just a matter of finding the right use cases for it and not leading with it.”
Adam hopes to give people peace of mind by not only allowing them to have information transferred virtually with secure checkpoints, but also the ability to verify or audit their information in a matter of seconds to make sure it’s safe. Data is now a highly valuable commodity, especially for The Department of Defense as many of the United States’ adversaries are becoming more advanced in hacking and computer power.
Something that has helped Adam receive multiple SBIR funding opportunities is the versatility and breadth of his product.
“You have aircraft data, you have Air Force men and women’s record data, and we’ve had conversations everywhere in between from satellite communications, weapon systems,” said Adam. “There’s just so many different possible use cases. SBIR is a completely underutilized R&D strategy. Anytime there is an SBIR open topic release, if we don’t already have an idea, we will come up with an idea. I would much rather be customer funded than venture funded. I consider SBIR customer funding because these aren’t grants.”
Adam also credits some of his success to working with the Center of Technology Commercialization throughout the past few years of applying for and receiving SBIR funding.
“We did some SBIR by ourselves,” said Adam. “I basically Googled SBIR and read literature about it and then took stabs in the dark and they were just terrible. When I look back at the first SBIR we wrote, I was like God, these reviewers probably thought we were children. It was so bad because we didn’t have all the domain expertise and knowledge CTC had to show how us it should be done. I feel like you always need a mentor, or you need a CTC to walk you through the process to even stand an inkling of a chance. We wouldn’t have gotten there until we worked with CTC.”
Adam expressed value in brainstorming with CTC’s consultants, gaining access to their resources and connections like the Apex group and learning lessons through the experiences of other SBIR applicants while going through CTC’s SBIR Ready program.
“There are so many consulting groups out there that charge a lot, or they’ll take a percentage of your win. You don’t need that when you have free resources like CTC.”
Adam’s next goal is to develop blockchain a product for artificial intelligence called Trident AI. His new product is a robust data engine that will allow the Department of Defense to input and create their own libraries and verify data through his current technology. He started building Trident AI about two months ago and plans to apply for another SBIR in the near future.