Scratching the Surface of Infrared

The Air Force plans to allow for private use of data provided by Space-Based Infrared Systems for civil applications, Col. Kerri Mellor, division chief of the Air Force’s Exploitation Capabilities Division, said Friday. “The intent of these mission areas is to maximize the return of investment the country has made by utilizing the Space-Based Infrared data to the maximum extent possible,” she said during an AFA Mitchell Institute breakfast on Capitol Hill. The USAF Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Directorate opened a data exploitation lab in Boulder, Colo., in April to provide a sandbox for industry and academic developers to find the most promising uses of the government-owned data. Mellor likened the potential uses of SBIRS’ data to the now common use of GPS technology in many applications even though it was developed solely for military use. “Today, we’re using GPS in ways no one ever dreamed of,” Mellor said. “We are at the same crossroads today with infrared data. Like GPS of old, we’re just now scratching the surface of finding out what we can do—far more than ever was imagined.” Potential applications include weather forecasting, ice tracking in the Arctic Ocean, and fire spotting, Mellor said. She noted the SBIRS’ sensors have been used to spot a wildfire, the location of which was then texted to firefighters. The SBIRS’ data is currently classified, but Mellor said an unclassified representative data set should be available for academic use within a year.