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BlackSky Wins IARPA Contract for Program to Automate Imagery Analysis 

By | January 6, 2021

BlackSky image collected over Port Elizabeth in South Africa on Aug. 10, 2020. Photo: BlackSky via Business WIre

BlackSky has been awarded a contract from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) for a research program that will work to automate analysis of satellite imagery. The multi-year research program, called Space-based Machine Automated Recognition Technique (SMART), was announced Wednesday. 

Under the contract, BlackSky will expand on its Spectra AI platform to develop open source, supervised, and semi-supervised learning algorithms that can automatically monitor construction of infrastructure such as military bases and airports. The combined effort will leverage the resources of NASA’s and U.S. Geological Survey Landsat’s constellation and Sentinel, the European Space Agency (ESA) constellation.

BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said in a release that this award is a “tremendous breakthrough in unsupervised learning for our Spectra AI platform and an unprecedented step toward the future of global monitoring.” 

According to the IARPA announcement, SMART research contracts have also been awarded to teams led by Accenture Federal Services, Kitware, and Systems & Technology Research. IARPA is within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

“Current manual exploitation methods do not scale well with the data volumes we’re receiving, and there’s the problem of simultaneously analyzing data from past, current and future space-based systems,” IARPA Program Manager Jack Cooper commented in a release. “SMART innovations in data fusion and machine learning techniques will enable automated broad area search at unprecedented temporal resolution and area coverage.”