Activating Artificial Intelligence answers NGA’s call for big data solutions


At last year’s GEOINT Symposium, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo said his agency was drowning in a “data deluge.”

“We’re … in a world that has moved from data scarcity to data abundance, from hunting for that one perfect image to creating coherence from a flood of images and the services that follow,” Cardillo said. “We’ll either sink, or we’ll swim, or we’ll ride the rising tide.”

To ride the rising tide, Cardillo acknowledged, NGA needs new tools and technologies that can help it turn an onslaught of geospatial data from a challenge into an opportunity. answered Cardillo’s call by developing Mirage, a computer vision and machine learning platform it demonstrated at this year’s GEOINT Symposium.

“Director Cardillo has talked about the crisis that NGA is facing with the amount of data it has. I experienced that crisis firsthand when I was commanding forces in Afghanistan, where our inability to process and exploit data cost us coalition lives,” said Brig. Gen. Balan Ayyar,’s founder and CEO and former U.S. Joint Task Force commanding general in Afghanistan. “What we’re developing is the ability for artificial intelligence to take multi-source intelligence, including geospatial intelligence; auto-recognize the type of data that’s coming in; and apply the right algorithms to that data to accelerate and elevate the data analysis that takes place with that data from a really well-informed and well-trained NGA analyst.”

Mirage can process not only satellite imagery, but also full-motion video from ground- and air-based platforms. The resulting capability—virtually instant analysis of unstructured data for person, object, and activity recognition—won’t replace human analysts, Ayyar said, but rather will make them more effective.

“Our products are all about supporting the intellectual capital NGA has built around its tradecraft so that analysts can move through data very quickly and get to the elements of it that they’re interested in,” Ayyar concluded. “What used to take analysts hours will now take them seconds and minutes.”

Headline Image: CEO Balan Ayyar founded to address the data challenges he experienced firsthand as a commanding general in Afghanistan. 


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