IARPA project aims to identify people from drones by more than just their face

gremlin/Getty Images

“It'll be interesting to see in a year or two from now,” according to the program manager.

The intelligence community’s key research arm recently moved to develop biometric software systems that can identify people’s entire bodies from long ranges in challenging conditions.  

Through this newly unveiled multi-year research effort—called the Biometric Recognition & Identification at Altitude and Range or BRIAR program—the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is working with teams from multiple companies and universities to pave the way for next-level recognition technology.

“There's such a diversity of technical challenges that are trying to be addressed. This is tackling a problem that's important for the government and for national security—but I think is underrepresented in the academic research because it's not a topic focus area,” IARPA Program Manager Dr. Lars Ericson told Nextgov on Wednesday. “You need to have government involvement to stimulate the data, and the research, and the evaluations in this topic area. So, I think that there's a lot of potential for broad benefits to biometrics and computer vision, while also driving towards this very important government mission capability.”

Ericson’s background is in physics, as well as biometrics applications and technologies. He oversees IARPA’s biometrics portfolio of research efforts.

As one of the latest programs to kick off, BRIAR’s ultimate aim, according to a broad agency announcement released last year to underpin this work, is to “deliver an end-to-end [whole-body] biometric system capable of accurate and reliable verification, recognition and identification of persons from elevated platforms and at distances out to 1,000 meters, across a range of challenging capture conditions.”

The software algorithm-based systems could one day support the intelligence community and Defense Department components in pinpointing people from watchtowers or drones, particularly in conditions that make observations extremely difficult.

Ericson noted that the current state-of-the-art technology in this realm really hasn't advanced to the point of being able to properly address certain biometric needs from an accurate and reliable standpoint in certain challenging imaging conditions. 

“My IC partners, because of their missions, are interested in being able to do biometric identification tasks,” he said. 

Considering best case scenario outcomes of this work, he said IARPA intends to develop, “that fundamental deliverable capability,” and also contribute “to the scientific understanding and knowledge in the research community, such that we can further push computer vision and biometrics research and scientific understanding to greater benefits for all scientific community.”

After releasing the broad agency announcement for BRIAR last year, IARPA awarded research contracts to teams from: Accenture Federal Services LLC; Intelligent Automation, Inc.; Kitware, Inc.; Michigan State University; Systems & Technology Research, the University of Houston; and the University of Southern California. 

“Those seven teams are all pursuing the same ultimate end goal,” Ericson explained. 

The BRIAR BAA is broken down into multiple technical challenges and objectives to give a greater focus and clarity to the researchers involved, he added.

“They include things like long range and high pitch, but they also include other technical objectives that are part of the overall system—for example, being invariant to the pose and illumination and expression of the individuals that are being imaged, to not be dependent on the clothing that this person is wearing, so it is a true biometric signature that’s being extracted from the imagery, as well as an explicit goal of making sure that the systems perform equitably across diverse demographic and human body shape groups,” Ericson said.

Carnegie Mellon University and General Electric Research were also selected for more “focused” research contracts to support IARPA in this effort.

“Those two teams had some very creative and innovative ideas in a subtopic within the overall program, and so they have more specialized objectives that they're pursuing,” the program manager noted.

Officials from the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command will provide testing and evaluation for this work.

“It'll be interesting to see in a year or two from now,” Ericson said. “Follow up to see what has been accomplished—but at this time, there's a lot of promise and a lot of excitement about these teams and what they are positioned to try and pursue.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.