Monday, December 17, 2018

New Radarsat R&D Funding is Mostly for Software Analytics But Includes Some Interesting Surprises

          By Chuck Black

The issuing of multiple contracts totaling $6.7Mln CDN through the Department of National Defence (DND) to eight Canadian and international companies to develop "situational awareness" applications focused around the analysis and assessment of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data-sets generated from Canada's Radarsat program, is typical of the ramp up of any new military program.

But the new contracts issued last week could potentially end up being just another example of Canadian ingenuity arriving late to an international party already bursting with experienced data analytics experts and ingenious applications.

As outlined in the December 14th, 2018 Government of Canada backgrounder "Government of Canada announces contract awards aimed at improving space-based earth observation capabilities," the new awards included:
Quebec PQ based ABB Canada, which received $305,000, or one half of the $610,000 required to investigate a "Complementary Electro-Optic/Infrared (EO/IR) payload to RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) follow-on.
The study will "help define mission objectives, requirements, and concepts for a secondary electro-optic/infrared payload for the RCM follow-on mission." 
Until now Radarsat's have focused on supporting only one payload, the SAR.
Ottawa ON based AstroCom Associates, which received $165,000 CDN, or one half of the $330,000 CDN required to fund "Project Arviq.
Project Arvig will investigate "the feasibility of a proposed capability to detect ocean waves in sea ice. Arviq builds upon recent results that show centimetre-scale ice waves can be imaged directly using synthetic aperture radar interferometry technology."
 St. John’s based C-Core, which received funding for two proposals.
  • $775,000 CDN, or one half of the $1,550,000 CDN needed to fund a study on "Multi-satellite data integration for operational ship detection, identification and tracking." This study will investigate and develop a "multi-satellite data classifying approach to enhance the capacity to discriminate ships from icebergs. Efficiently and rapidly classifying detected objects of interest in or over water is a key area of interest to the maritime domain situational awareness community." 
  • $940,000 CDN, or one half of the $1,880,000 CDN needed to fund a study on "Modelling the geo-spatial intelligence capability to support Canadian surveillance and sovereignty." The study will "evaluate the spatio-temporal aspects of acquiring, down-linking and analyzing imagery for the generation of geographical intelligence products in support of land and maritime monitoring. It will investigate and develop a multi-satellite data classifier to better characterize ship and non-ship targets."
Calgary AB based Complex System Inc., which received $200,000 CDN, or one half the total $400,000 CDN needed to fund a study on "Electro-Optic/Infrared data analytics for enhanced maritime surveillance."
The study will "develop an on-board video processing system which will be used together with space-based radar and ship detection sensors to enhance near-real time vessel detection, tracking and identification. Complex Systems Inc. will develop a new data analytics system by leveraging leading edge computer vision and machine learning technologies and deliver a suite of advanced processing tools enabling enhancing maritime surveillance capabilities."
Gatineau PQ based CubeWerx, which received $485,000 CDN, or one half the total $970,000 CDN needed to fund a study on a proposed "RADARSAT thematic exploitation platform demonstrator." 
The project "will study big data and cloud computing approaches to support scalability, agility, and on-demand availability of earth observation data products" plus "develop a RADARSAT thematic exploitation platform and demonstrate a working environment where users can package their applications and upload them to a Cloud environment that supports the processing of users algorithms at scale, avoiding the need to download and store large volumes of images locally."
Ottawa ON based General Dynamics Mission Systems, which received $75,000 CDN, or one half the total $150,000 CDN needed to fund a study on "Real-time processing of large-volume space-based multi-modal data."
The project "will develop new approaches using emerging graphics processing unit architectures and the latest algorithms to process large volumes of satellite remote sensing data from multiple sources and types such as multiband radar, electro-optical and infrared sensors."
Brampton ON based MDA, which received funding for three proposals.
  • $1Mln CDN, or one half of the $2Mln CDN needed to fund a study on "Augmenting Canada’s maritime surveillance capability with complementary electro-optic/infrared information products." The project "will demonstrate how incorporating various types of space remote sensing satellite data elements can augment maritime surveillance capabilities with additional detections and improve classification, identification, and tracking." The contract was awarded through the Richmond BC based MDA Systems division.
  • $500,000 CDN, or one half of the $1Mln CDN to fund a study on the "Application of Big Data analytics techniques to extracting GEOINT from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery." The project will "investigate Big Data analytics and automatization techniques to better exploit the large and growing data archives" collected and expected to be collected during the RADARSAT-2 and RCM programs. The contract was awarded through the Richmond BC based MDA Geospatial Services division.
  • $750,000 CDN, or one half of the $1.5Mln CDN needed to fund a study on "Persistent multi-sensor land surveillance and change monitoring." The project "will explore how wide-area automated change monitoring techniques can be enhanced by using a combination of earth observing data types such as RADARSAT and electro-optical data." The contract was awarded through the Richmond BC based MDA Systems division.
Vancouver BC based UrtheCast, which received funding for two proposals. 
  • $1Mln CDN, or one half the total $2Mln CDN needed to fund a study on "Architecture innovations for analytics-ready data." The project "will demonstrate scalable warehousing and on-demand processing of analytics-ready space remote sensing data from multiple types of earth observation systems, to enable emerging techniques including artificial intelligence to be used for the production of geographical information products." 
  • $499,000 CDN, or approximately one half the total $999,000 CDN needed to fund a study on "Complementary sensor exploitation." The project "will develop, implement and demonstrate a new system to deliver thematic maps derived from complementary satellite earth observation data sources in support of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) land operations."

Only one of the listed awards, for ABB to investigate a secondary EO/IR payload, covered research on potential future hardware.

The other awards covered software and data modelling applications related to geospatial intelligence (GEOINT), the "study of human activity on earth derived from the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information," according to Wikipedia.

The contracts were structured as public private partnerships with costs split 50-50 between DND and the various private companies. They were provided under the second of two DND Defence Innovation Research Program (DIRP) calls for proposals under its tasking-collection-processing & exploitation-dissemination (TCPED) initiative.

However, as outlined in the May 22nd, 2018 Space News post "Not convinced of the promise of commercial radar satellites? Meet the radar mafia," there is already a growing international geospatial data analytics community creating military and civilian applications for the SAR data-sets being generated now by many other space-based radar satellites.

So the latest DND awards are certainly not enough by themselves to insure Canadian leadership in this area.

The Space News post focused on the 2018 GEOINT Symposium, which was organized by Ithaca NY based Ursa Space Systems and held from April 22nd - 25th in Tampa FL.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page