Military operations depend upon the unimpeded flow of accurate and relevant information to support timely decisions related to battle planning and execution. To address these needs, numerous intelligence systems and technologies have been developed over the past 20 years, but each of these typically provides only a partial picture of the battlefield, and integrating the information has proven to be burdensome and inefficient.
DARPA’s Insight program aims to take defense intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to the next level by creating the capability to meaningfully integrate disparate “stovepiped” source information into a unified picture of the battlefield. As DARPA’s capstone ISR processing program, Insight seeks to enable analysts to make sense of the huge volumes of intelligence-rich information available to them from existing sensors and data sources. Automated behavioral learning and prediction algorithms would help analysts discover and identify potential threats, as well as make and confirm hypotheses about those threats’ potential behavior. The goal is a comprehensive operating picture in which expedient delivery of fused actionable intelligence would improve support of time-sensitive operations on the battlefield.
“We’re addressing the tyranny of stovepipes,” said Ben Cutler, DARPA program manager leading the Insight program. “Intelligence analysts currently use different systems for nearly every different data feed, and intelligence derived from these systems is not always readily understandable and accessible. Insight aims to create an adaptable, integrated system that augments human analysts’ capabilities to collect information from all available sources, learn from it, and share important insights with the people who need it most—all in real time.”
Improving real-time information sharing is a priority at the highest levels of the U.S. military. “Defense intelligence must be able to provide timely and actionable intelligence across the entire threat spectrum,” U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, Director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Intelligence Agency, testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2013.
Insight would enable analysts to collaborate on the fly via an intuitive user interface that speeds comprehension of complex information through state-of-the-art data visualization techniques. Under the hood, advanced automation and data fusion technologies would handle low-level analytical tasks and correlate incoming live data streams and forensic data. Insight’s scalable, modular architecture promises to reduce cost and accelerate delivery of tailored capabilities readily adapted to meet evolving mission needs in any theater of operation.
“Imagine PCs or smartphones without plug and play, without the rich, interactive environment we take for granted, without applications that share data and interact with each other,” Cutler said. “That’s how computers were until strong standards took hold. Our goal with Insight is to bring similar levels of capability and interoperability to ISR, with all the associated benefits to the defense mission.”
DARPA recently awarded BAE Systems, Inc. of Burlington, Mass., the prime contract for Phase 2 of the Insight program.