F-35 to benefit from next-gen targeting and geopositioning technology

The U.S. Air Force's F-35 Lightning II multirole combat aircraft is in line to receive next-level target identification, tracking, and geopositioning systems, due entirely to the cooperative efforts of two emerging small businesses - Rhea Space Activity (RSA) of Washington, D.C., and PixElement of Columbus, Ohio.

RSA, a pioneering, science-focused "new space" and aerospace consultancy, guided PixElement through every step of the recent "F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) Pitch Day," a process that led to funded contracts for two vital, proposed F-35 systems upgrade projects. The contracts will allow PixElement to broaden development of its innovative new concepts for on-board deployment of state-of-the-art, real-time target monitoring and asset location systems for the F-35.

RSA Founder and Astrophysicist Shawn Usman said of the wins: "The funding is testament to the efficiency of the changing acquisition environment in the Air Force, coupled with the effectiveness of RSA consulting services. We're starting to collect some significant contracting wins for our clients, and we are demonstrating that our strategies work."

The selected projects are based on conceptualizations developed by RSA that leverage PixElement's commercially successful photogrammetry product, and adapt it to provide enhanced visualization to F-35 pilots. The first project, dubbed "Targeting of AI-selected Photogrammetric Objects and Sights (TAPOS)", provides new target identification in real time, based on 3D models generated in-flight from the F-35 Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) and the aircraft's Active Electronically Steered Array (AESA) Radar.

Through a working partnership with CrowdAI, a Silicon Valley-based artificial intelligence (AI) firm, RSA's and PixElement's TAPOS will enhance vital Mission Data Files (MDF) by employing a cloud computing architecture to stream newly generated targeting information to the F-35's pilot and ground-level combat operators.

The second project, entitled "Cloud-Enabled RADAR Change-Detection (CERC)" includes as a partner Centauri, a leading provider of high-end engineering, intelligence, cyber security and advanced technology solutions. CERC leverages the EOTS and AESA Radar to detect changes on the ground, such as unexpected vehicle activity, by comparing 3D models generated in-flight to previous intelligence provided by aerial reconnaissance and ground unit reports. These products can then be used by the pilot, support personnel, and ground-level combat operators.

PixElement offers a commercial computer vision product that uses advanced techniques to gain insight from digital images for a wide variety of applications in mapping, photogrammetry, and 3D modeling, which is now in use by customers around the world. PixElement anticipates that TAPOS and CERC will directly benefit from the tens of thousands of hours the company has already invested into their existing commercial product, bringing far-reaching scalability, stability, and improved intelligence to the F-35 program.

RSA specializes in guiding its clients through new Air Force and Intelligence Community acquisition processes, many of which are determined through innovative "Pitch Day" events that appeal directly to the specializations and unique expertise of a variety of start-ups and small businesses in the national security, intelligence and aerospace sectors. In this particular instance, RSA leveraged its own extensive network within the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community to ensure TAPOS and CERC were viable and would gain enthusiastic buy-in from US government stakeholders.

PixElement CEO Benjamin Vander Jagt praised the hard work and ingenuity of the RSA team: "PixElement is thrilled to continue our working relationship with RSA while executing these contracts. It is truly exciting that our first two prime government contracts are with the Air Force, applying our technology to advance the capabilities of the F-35. We are not starting from scratch with either of these projects. Rather, our goal is to leverage our existing technology with Air Force imaging assets to rapidly answer difficult questions with the highest level of fidelity.

"In other words, the basic tools for better real-time intelligence data are already on-board most F-35 Lightning IIs. We've simply devised ways to make them work much more efficiently, more thoroughly, and much faster, and RSA led the way in the demonstrating how to meet these challenges."

RSA Director of Physics Programs Cameo Lance said, "The F-35 Pitch Day effort with PixElement is exactly the sort of change RSA strives to enable in the DoD acquisitions structure. We were able to secure funding for an innovative new company and expand our nation's capabilities within a few weeks.

"The previous way of doing business would have taken months, if not years, to get from a pitch to a contract. PixElement had money in the bank the same day they pitched, and the F-35 JPO has an innovative commercial company developing new capabilities for our nation's most advanced aircraft. That's the kind of speed and efficiency RSA enables."

Related Links
Rhea Space Activity
Aerospace News at SpaceMart.com

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