NGA Is Optimistic About Its Radio Frequency Data Pilot Program

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January 5, 2021 | Originally published by AFCEA International on December 16, 2020

So far, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA’s) pilot to assess how radio frequency (RF) geospatial data and analytical solutions from the commercial sector could support the agency’s mission is going well, according to the Springfield, Virginia-based intelligence arm. The so-called Predictive GEOINT Prototype supports an agile development approach, the NGA said.

Although the program is limited in scope, the NGA is already initially benefiting from the RF data coming from HawkEye 360 LLC that is being delivered to analysts at the NGA and the U.S. combatant commands. The company’s data and analytics are meant to augment the agency’s existing geospatial intelligence activities.

The agency is gauging how well the industry contribution works for RF geolocations for mapping applications, as well as “tipping and cueing” other data sources, such as electro-optical and radar imaging satellites.

“We are pleased with the pilot’s progress so far and the initial results associated with the commercial RF data and analytics have been positive,” said Scot Currie, Director of the NGA’s Source Operations Group, who leads geospatial intelligence collection from current and emerging data sources. “This pilot is an example of NGA’s commitment to exploring how we can integrate new and emerging commercial data sources into our analytic platforms to better support our mission partners’ needs.”

The agency relied on the National Reconnaissance Office’s commercial integration study contract with HawkEye 360 to gain access to the company’s sensing platform, which provides independent geolocation of emitters across a broad range of RF signals, from VHF up to Ku-band, according to the company.

In addition, the NGA is working closely with the combatant commands to see how the data from the pilot could improve maritime awareness, as well as improve collaboration with regional allies and any unclassified data and analytics that can be shared.

“One of our challenges is to look at how we can take nontraditional data and services that are not pixel-based—like RF geolocations —and explore how we can apply these sources to be more responsive to the needs of our defense and intelligence partners,” said Dave Gauthier, Director of the NGA’s Commercial Business and Operations Group. “Moving forward, we want commercial industry to develop automated imagery exploitation algorithms, bringing multiple sources together, including RF geolocations, so we have a stream of information and activity updates feeding our national security algorithms.”

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