2022 Innovative Tradecraft Competition Finalists
And the winner is…
On Tuesday afternoon on the main stage of the GEOINT 2022 Symposium, the winner of the annual Innovative Tradecraft Competition was announced by Ronda Schrenk, CEO of USGIF.
And the winner is…Annie Glassie with Hawkeye 360! Her new “opportunity algorithm” improves the process of identifying marine vessels around the world. Read more on the winning entry and the three other finalists below.
Congratulations to Annie and the Hawkeye 360 team!
AMAZON WEB SERVICES
Large-scale simulations can help governments prepare to respond in scenarios ranging from attacks to natural disasters. Yet the value of those simulations depends on the accuracy, depth, and detail of the models on which they are based.
A collaboration between Amazon Web Services (AWS), Lockheed Martin, Unity and HERE Technologies uses three-dimensional digital twins to reimagine what’s possible through large-scale simulations. The AWS model parses the United States into 144 distinct regions, each controlled by an independent application within the 3D engine. That level of detail requires immense amounts of computing power, but the distributed, cloud-based system meets the challenge in a way that traditional hardware cannot.
The result is a simulation rich in detail, able to anticipate far-flung effects. The AWS team’s presentation at USGIF’s Innovative Tradecraft Competition focuses on a hypothetical earthquake in San Francisco and is able to simulate the government’s response at a continental scale.
“What we’re ultimately simulating isn’t the natural disaster itself, but the recovery effort and the supporting logistics operations and coordination,” said Ritz Martinovic, senior product manager at AWS. “We are focused on how we can increase the realism that takes us from notional scenarios and theory to actual application.”
DESCARTES LABS GOVERNMENT
Secure, reliable electronic transmission of geospatial data is essential to modern warfare. Yet in forward-deployed environments, reliability and security are anything but assured. In addition to radio, weather and terrain interference and the usual cyber-snooping tactics, 5G wide-area network infrastructure itself may be compromised.
Descartes Labs Government and SCATR address that challenge with a solution that combines fast transmission of geospatial intelligence with security protocols that provide secure transit for data—even over untrusted and rapidly changing networks. The Descartes Labs Government team’s contribution is a scalable, high-speed platform that combines publicly and commercially available geospatial data to equip forward-deployed forces with critical, real-time insight. SCATR’s technology ensures that the communication is secure even when transmitted over an untrusted network. It breaks up the transmission data and moves it across various nodes and networks before reassembling the data for delivery—and along the way, SCATR checks the networks for signs of snooping.
Forward-deployed forces “rely so heavily on communications, and the cleaner, more trusted and more current that information is, it saves lives in the intelligence and [Department of Defense] communities,” said Shawana Johnson, chief science officer for Descartes Labs Government.
Shortly after the USGIF Innovative Tradecraft Competition’s preliminary round, Descartes Labs Government and SCATR finalized a contract with United States Central Command to deploy the technology.
There is a significant problem with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used to identify marine vessels around the world: it’s voluntary, and individual vessels can turn off the tracking system whenever they want. That means nefarious ships often go dark at precisely the moments when they are preparing to do nefarious things.
Traditionally, analysts attempting to reconstruct their movements have faced a time-intensive, manual process that often yielded imprecise results. Hawkeye 360’s new “opportunity algorithm” improves the process by automating it and using radio frequency (RF) data to more accurately estimate the possible locations a dark ship could have traveled, and recommend the most likely spots. Because the manual burden is vastly reduced, analysts are able to arrive at critical insights more quickly, and also can perform similar analyses at scale—monitoring many such vessels at the same time.
“We’re currently able to detect when a vessel of interest is emitting some kind of energy regardless of whether they’re broadcasting AIS,” said Annie Glassie, mission analyst at Hawkeye 360. “The ability to predict the likely voyage patterns of dark vessels at scale addresses a recurring problem and use case that I’ve seen in many different areas, from the eastern Mediterranean to the Bering Sea.”
The technology is currently in use as a field prototype, and Hawkeye360 plans to offer a full-production deployment this summer.
The value of satellite surveillance always has come with a caveat: the inevitable coverage gaps due to weather events or insufficient satellite activity. Today, however, the emergence of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, along with a coming wave of SAR-equipped commercial satellites, presents analysts with an opportunity to achieve greater persistence by combining data from cloud-piercing SAR satellites with traditional optical images.
Yet that’s easier said than done. Only highly trained analysts are able to interpret SAR data, for example—and even for them, blending that data with traditional electro-optical (EO) satellite data is a major challenge.
L3Harris’s solution is the creation of a new virtual modality: a volumetric data source that merges SAR and EO data into a unified data stream. L3Harris calls it a 4-dimensional solution because, in addition to spatial insights, it also includes a temporal element, allowing analysts to study changes over time. The model can also predict an anticipated future state based on past results and then flag a result that differs from the prediction.
The volumetric data source has one other key benefit: It’s intuitive to use and doesn’t require specialized training to interpret SAR data.
Michael Smith, an advanced concept engineer at L3Harris and one of the project’s creators, said the new technology “lays the foundation to fully exploit these new constellations of SAR and EO commercial satellites that are coming online, and that will be delivering data at a volume that is 100 times—and eventually 1,000 times—what we’re dealing with today.”
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