Air Force wants to meld humans and machines for ISR analysis

The Air Force, looking to add a human factor to the analysis of all the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data it collects from drones and other sources, has awarded a $42.5 million contract to Wright State Applied Research Corp. for just that.

The roughly six-and-a-half-year deal calls for Wright State, part of a research institute that has regularly worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to conduct research into improving human performance in analyzing ISR data through cognitive systems engineering, according to the contract announcement.

As AFRL noted when it released a presolicitation for the project a little more than a year ago, the bulk of research in ISR analysis has gone toward automated, system-centric solutions. That’s reasonable, since the amount of data collected is too big for humans to sort through on their own, but improvements in such tasks as data fusion also have left humans somewhat out of the loop.

With this contract, the Air Force wants to create a more efficient human-machine team for processing, exploiting, analyzing, producing and disseminating ISR information. The contract calls for research in three specific areas:

ISR knowledge elicitation – that is, gaining knowledge from the ISR community om ways to improve the planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and production, and dissemination of ISR information.

ISR concept, design and development – building human-centric tools to enhance intelligence analysis and predictive assessment by addressing human and system challenges.

ISR performance assessment – providing a realistic analyst environment with subjective and objective measures to test potential capability improvements before acquisition.

The contractor is part of Wright State Research Institute, a non-profit arm of Wright State University that was established in 2007 and has aligned its academic mission with industry and Wright-Patterson AFB. It’s been expanding of late on its early work in lasers and human performance studies, the latter conducted with the AFRL with regard to remotely piloted aircraft.

Work under the contract is expected to be completed by Feb. 7, 2022.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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