Honors Gallery

Bringing the ACTIVE Shooter Alert System to the Market

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2017

Award Type:

Region: Midwest

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) - Sensors Directorate

Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, there has been a disturbing rise in the number of "active shooter" incidents across America. FBI data shows that the number of active shooter events in the U.S. has tripled since the Columbine shooting.  In 2013 alone, there were a total of 14 attacks, with gunmen shooting 73 people and killing 39. To address vulnerabilities and respond in the event of these tragic attacks, military installations, schools, churches, event organizers, and security forces are taking many steps to prepare. However, few active shooter technologies have been deployed to overcome active shooter vulnerabilities or assist in responding to an attack.

The Active Shooter Protection System (ASPS) is a technology developed by the Air Force during the 2015 Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Commander’s Challenge. The Commander’s Challenge is a 9-month-long Air Force-wide annual competition that focuses on finding solutions for real-world threats the military faces.  The challenge process stimulates innovation, allows AFRL to develop more than one potential solution, and often creates opportunities for commercial spinouts. 

The ASPS system detects the sound of a gunshot using advanced digital signal processing and artificial intelligence to differentiate from other loud noises. When a gunshot is detected, the system sounds an alarm and transmits the exact location of the emergency to police and fire dispatchers.  Additionally, the ASPS elegantly integrates into existing fire alarm systems and associated wiring, eliminating the need for stand-alone networks, servers or software.  This greatly reduces cost, putting gunshot detection systems within the realm of widespread affordability for the first time ever. 

Former U.S. Air Force Capt. Chris Perrine was the chief of acquisitions for net centric services at Robbins Air Force Base, where the technology was developed, when after the 2015 Commander’s Challenge he decided to separate from the Air Force to bring ASPS to market.  “I left my career as an Air Force officer to make sure this technology is available to protect our service members, as well as the public at large,” he said.  Perrine formed a new business, Protective Innovations, LLC, and subsequently applied for and was granted an exclusive patent license for the technology he helped invent.

It is Perrine’s commitment and entrepreneurial spirit that initiated this partnership, but Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate (AFRL/RY) ORTA Tina Culpepper negotiated the agreement on behalf of the Air Force.  Culpepper engaged closely with Air Force intellectual property (IP) attorneys and TechLink to negotiate an exclusive patent license agreement with Protective Innovations.  This was the first exclusive patent license ever negotiated and executed by AFRL’s Sensors Directorate.

This technology transfer effort has already netted the Air Force $8,000 in patent royalties, and AFRL/RY anticipates further royalty streams when ASPS products make it to the market.  In addition to the initial fees and minimum royalty payments of at least $99.5K over the life of the patent, the Air Force will receive an additional 4 percent of all further ASPS product sales. The inventor team will receive 50 percent of these royalties, setting a positive example for the Air Force workforce and thus stimulating further technology transfer activities and commercialization of Air Force-owned IP.  At the same time, the license agreement is giving Protective Innovations an opportunity to create a business.  Obtaining exclusive rights via the license application was key to finding venture capital to grow the company and protecting its market space from future competition.  Even more important than the royalty stream back to the Air Force is the opportunity to see a product that addresses a key security concern for military and civilian personnel enter and succeed in the market.