Rowan partners with ASRC Federal Mission Solutions on image fusion to identify images from space

Rowan partners with ASRC Federal Mission Solutions on image fusion to identify images from space


Top Points: 
Computer Science partnership
Real-world experience
Enhancing security

Is it a person or an animal? Is it a natural occurrence or a threat?

ASRC Federal Mission Solutions (AFMS) in Moorestown, New Jersey, has been developing satellite imaging systems to identify objects with Rowan University computer science students on a project titled “Image Fusion for Situational Awareness.”

Mike Peacock, solutions architect, Advanced Capabilities and Solutions, noted, “AFMS’s primary workspace is in the federal domain. We execute many contracts for the Navy Aegis program. Image fusion is one area that we are exploring to aid the end user with an increasingly difficult situational awareness picture.”

Determining threats

The project is a research and development activity to explore and develop a set of algorithms to fuse multiple images into a single image that will determine differences and potential threats. “With increasing availability and ease to capture images from satellites, UAVs, drones, and even mobile devices, image fusion is required to combine relevant information into a single image to increase situational awareness. Since imagery has been available, this task has been manual and could easily overwhelm the operator and lead to missing critical information,” Peacock said.

Five students coded algorithms to help indicate what images were of and what changed about them. They conducted the research under computer science professors Dr. Anthony Breitzman, Jack Myers and Dr. John Robinson.

The coding focused on determining the difference between two images taken at different times, separating out ordinary changes (such as a tree swaying in a breeze) from threatening changes (such as a Jeep or Humvee encroaching on a military installation).

“The goal of the project is to identify the various actors who might be trying to harm a building or some kind of military installation or even a soft target, including possible terrorist threats,” Breitzman said.

Assessing identity

For instance, if a satellite is scanning a wooded area, the program could determine whether an object was an animal or a person and whether the object changed positions or not.

That information can be important for a wide range of concerns, from search and rescue missions to Homeland Security.

According to Kimberly Davis, lead agile architect with AFMS and a Rowan alumna, the program is being developed for defense purposes. The company is a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy.

“The collaboration ASRC Federal Mission Solutions has with Rowan University’s Computer Science Department is invaluable as it a partnership where both parties look to help benefit each other,” Davis said. “By supplying Rowan with problems  to solve, students are introduced to issues industries are typically faced with, giving them a ‘real-world’ perspective on what to expect beyond their academic careers.”

Benefitting all

“In turn, our organization benefits greatly from gaining a fresh perspective and insight into the latest technologies being taught in such institutions from the students and faculty we work with. It is a great opportunity to understand the students’ potential and how AFMS can benefit from their abilities. In this partnership, everyone wins,” Davis said.

She added of the students, “They’re impressive. It’s amazing to hear them speak so intelligently about technology they originally had no idea about. They were able to understand the concept and turn it into something. It was amazing how quickly they could turn an idea into something real.”

“The team did an excellent job. This project continued a previous effort that was completed in the spring semester of 2016, and the team took it to the next level and then some. We look to the Rowan students to provide a fresh perspective and to explore the art of the possible. In the end, not only did the team meet the goals of the project, they were able to create additional capabilities that could be used in multiple domains,” Peacock said.

The firm has not yet deployed the program, but that staff learned from the technology. “Now we are assessing what the team did and are comparing it to what’s in the market and what interests defense industries,” Davis said.

According to Peacock, the firm is working to integrate the Rowan information into ongoing R&D projects. “As we continue to explore the domain of image fusion, we will use the functionality developed under this project to provide the foundation for capabilities that are critical to build the ‘big picture’ for the warfighter,” he said.

Preparing for the future

Breitzman sees the collaboration as a concrete benefit for students. “It’s real experience at producing commercial-quality code. We do a good job of teaching them, but the classroom examples we use are not necessarily what they will see in the real world. It’s also a chance for them to do a long-term interview while they are still in school. Most of these students will wind up getting hired by AFMS. The students get experience creating production-level code, they get paid, and they usually get a full-time job offer after graduation,” he said.