Beyond the 'Bleeding Edge'

Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions evolves proactively to anticipate new trends

By Andrew Conner • 2016 ISSUE 3

The GEOINT tradecraft has come a long way since analysts produced hard copy exploitation on physical photographs, and few know that better than the engineers at Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions. Textron Systems’ flagship image exploitation product, RemoteView, was released in 1996 and replaced the Image Data Exploitation (IDEX) II workstation as the primary image exploitation engine for intelligence analysts.

“We were part of the initiative to reduce the cost of the million-dollar-per-workstation IDEX and to put it on a desktop,” said Daryl Madden, senior vice president and general manager of Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions. “RemoteView rose to the top as the premier provider in the intelligence industry, and it was really decided by the users.”

Textron Systems’ parent company, Textron, has a long and storied history, beginning as a small textile company in 1923 and eventually becoming the conglomerate it is today via its acquisition of transportation, aerospace, defense, and other companies in the past 60 years. Currently, Textron’s business—with 35,000 employees spread across 25 countries—encompasses five main segments: Bell Helicopter, Industrial, Textron Aviation, Textron Financial, and Textron Systems.

Change Detection Using 2-Color Multi-View
This image of Fiery Cross Reef, Spratly Islands, South China Sea illustrates change detection using 2-Color Multi-View. Anything new since the last time imagery was collected appears in blue; red indicates something has either departed or changed. Images courtesy of Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions

Within each of these segments, Textron owns numerous businesses and is responsible for hundreds of products and brands, including Beechcraft, Cessna, Cushman, and Jacobsen. In 2006, Textron acquired Overwatch Systems, the developers of RemoteView, and brought them under the Textron Systems umbrella, creating the Geospatial Solutions business. Since its release in 1996, RemoteView has been enhanced regularly to meet the ever-changing needs of the geospatial intelligence landscape, both with updates to the core software as well as separate plugins and extensions.

“We reach out to our users, understand what they do, bring back feature requests, and then [include those additions] in our maintenance release that we put out once or twice a year,” Madden said. “We like to say RemoteView is a product designed by analysts and implemented by engineers. Over the years we’ve put in hundreds of user-requested tools and features.”

Keeping a software product such as RemoteView up to date for two decades is not an easy task. Textron Systems has developed strong relationships with imagery vendors so it is often among the first to receive simulated imagery to build compatibility for new image types and metadata into RemoteView, as well as to ensure the product meets National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF) standards.

“When a company or governmental organization comes along and says they want to take data and perform an algorithm on it, they don’t want to go through the NITF certification, they don’t want to have to read in 40 different types of geospatial data—all they want is to be able to run their analysis on the data and provide that to the user,” Madden said. “So the extensibility of the RemoteView API is really valuable to them.”

Watch a demo video of RemoteView and other Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions products. 

Beyond adapting its technology for new imagery sources, Textron Systems continuously responds to GEOINT Community trends.

Recent comments by National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo discussing the “darkening of the skies” by small sats prompted Textron Systems to form an advance concept team. This team is developing innovative new solutions to help the Intelligence Community keep pace with the influx of imagery from next generation commercial remote sensing.

“We work very closely with the image scientists at NGA as they are trying to use this new data in a—I don’t even want to say ‘bleeding edge’ way, because it’s beyond that,” said Tony Bruzzese, NGA account manager at Textron Systems Geospatial Solutions. “RemoteView is used extensively by imagery analysts all over the world to perform their daily activities. Image scientists or software engineers that are creating analysis tools for solving complex geospatial problems can utilize RemoteView as a platform to deliver these services to the enterprise.”

This process demonstrates Textron Systems’ focus on responding to and proactively anticipating user needs. It ensures that once the user is ready to manipulate new types of data, Textron Systems is ready as well.