Flight Test Engineer designs innovative exterior camera system

  • Published
  • By Capt Lindsey Heflin
  • 53rd Wing
Inspired by the need to create a cost efficient, rapidly manufacturable in-flight camera pod, First Lt. Jacob Geil, a flight test engineer assigned to the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, designed the Operational Test and Training Exterior Recording Camera (OTTER Cam) for use on the A-10C Thunderbolt II.

The OTTER Cam consists of an action camera, a heavy-duty commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) housing, and a custom mounting bracket. It can record any one of the eleven A-10C weapons pylons in-flight, providing a crucial capability to ensure safe-separation when testing new stores.

While legacy cameras perform the same function, existing pods come with a nearly one-million-dollar price tag and require a one-year lead time for manufacturing and airworthiness certification. Geil’s OTTER Cam costs a total of $700 and was designed, manufactured, and assembled in-house.

“We’re unable to integrate new and complex stores on the A-10 without wing or belly-mounted cameras and we don’t have the budget to pay outside organizations for this capability,” said Geil. “With the support of my leadership and the A-10 Systems Program Office, we were able to create a solution that saves the Air Force significant time and money.”

As of November 2023, the OTTER Cam has been approved for Limited Flight Clearance (LFC) and Military Flight Release (MFR) on any test-coded A-10 aircraft to include Operational Test, Developmental Test, and the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center. All OTTER Cam testing to date has proven successful and exceeded expectations.  

“This is a perfect example of empowering Airmen at the lowest echelons to cut through existing inefficiencies, shorten mission-critical timelines, and reduce overall programmatic costs,” said Maj. Ben Baumann, 59th TES A-10C Test Director. “It’s difficult to overstate the value that such innovation brings to our test and evaluation mission.”

While Geil is the primary lead on the OTTER Cam project, he credits his leadership both in the 59th TES and A-10 Systems Program Office for playing a pivotal role in the project’s success.
“This project wouldn’t have succeeded without the tremendous support of my leadership, who led the way for us to accept certain risks and break away from traditional processes,” said Geil. “And as simple as it may be, it’s thrilling to think that something I designed is actively flown on one of the greatest aircraft ever built.”
For more information, contact 53rd Wing Public Affairs 850-598-3283.    

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