IARPA Invites GEOINT Community to Share Ideas

Dr. Stacey Dixon, IARPA deputy director, is on a mission to expand engagement


The deputy director of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Projects Research Activity (IARPA) is challenging the GEOINT Community to come forward with ideas for research projects that will help advance the tradecraft.

Dr. Stacey Dixon, who came to IARPA three months ago with a mission to increase its exposure, encouraged the audience to get more involved with the research activity during her Sunday presentation at GEOINT Foreword.

“I guarantee that if you come work [with] us it will be an experience you will not forget,” Dixon said.

IARPA is the Intelligence Community’s version of the more widely recognized Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and has a similar mission, Dixon said. “We’re like DARPA but we’re smaller and we haven’t invented anything like the internet yet so we’re not a household name,” she said.

But make no mistake, she said—IARPA operates on technology’s cutting edge with the understanding that many of its efforts might ultimately fail. One such effort, for example, dubbed MIcRONS, is intended to artificially replicate the cognitive abilities of the human brain, Dixon said. In effect, the program seeks to “reverse engineer” the brain, including the neurons and synapses, in an effort to determine how it performs calculations, she said.

In the GEOINT arena, IARPA has several programs underway including Finder, which aims to geo-locate any image anywhere on Earth. Although industry is active in geo-location, Finder is focused on remote areas that lack easily recognizable landmarks and don’t draw commercial interest or potential, Dixon said.

There’s also Aladdin Video, a tool intended to search cyberspace for video footage of whatever the user seeks, she said. CORE3D, meanwhile, aims to combine satellite-based spectral, textural, and dimensional data to enable users to accurately recognize and determine the makeup of objects on the ground.

Many of these technologies are already being transitioned to operational agencies that will employ them in the field, according to Dixon.

IARPA tends to pursue relatively small and short-term projects lasting no more than three to five years, Dixon said. IARPA program managers are there on temporary assignment–Dixon is technically a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee–and much of the work is unclassified, enabling the activity to engage a wide swath of partners in industry, academia and overseas, she said.

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