MITRE’s University Innovation Exchange for Space: Using Space Research to Address Enterprise-Wide Problems

By Liv Blackmon, Ph.D. , Scott Kordella, Ph.D. , Giovanna Casalino , Riley Fujioka , Christopher Goyne, Ph.D. , David Bowles, Ph.D. , Jonathan Black, Ph.D. , Piotr Pachowicz, Ph.D. , Scott Bailey, Ph.D. , Afroze Mohammad , Mary Sandy

Data gathered in space can help researchers address problems like pollution, traffic congestion, and power generation. MITRE is working with four Virginia universities with expertise in remote-sensing technology to make use of information from satellites.

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The Commonwealth of Virginia has several key needs addressed with space-based remote sensing data. The commonwealth has many experts in remote sensing observations, data analysis, and data archival and dissemination working in independent groups on a range of research topics. Our thesis is that information from data sources can be more efficiently exploited to support real time decision making by problem stakeholders.

While the title of our study includes "space," we envision the use of space, airborne, terrestrial, maritime sensors, and a variety of data sources (e.g., weather, traffic reports) to support these problems. Our goal is to obtain necessary data from information sources associated with a given problem (‘problem-centric’) and integrate this data into a single process for data mining and exploitation.

We anticipate improvement in the timeliness and effectiveness of actions taken by stakeholders based on the exploitation of those data. Given the proliferation of remote sensing capabilities, information sources, and information technology enablers such as the internet-of-things, this is a logical next step for an Information Based Economy.

Based on this vision, MITRE is collaborating with four Virginia universities and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to make high impact contributions to the commonwealth. Taking advantage of existing capabilities and investments, we are leveraging current activities such as Virginia Research Investment Committee-Funded Virginia Small Sat Data Consortium, the Virginia Open Data Cube (VODC), and the work of other state and federal entities to provide efficient access to data to address problems in the commonwealth.

Solar power generation efficiency: Stability and efficiency of the electric grid, the most important aspects for the energy infrastructure.

Transportation efficiency: Congestion on Virginia roadways that costs billions of dollars and causes needless loss of life as well as affects Virginians’ quality of life.

Flooding prediction and response: Impacts of flooding, sea-level rise, and land subsidence all affect the near and far-term economic growth and development of Virginia coastal regions.

Water body monitoring: A large portion of rivers are unmonitored and unassessed. Virginia’s water pollution problem requires extensive monitoring to understand how to prevent environmental damage.

Wildfire prevention and response: Assessing wildfire risk in the wilderness / urban interface is a major challenge and area of concern for wildfire danger—with the potential for massive loss of personal property and infrastructure.

This report documents our first phase of work. During this phase, the UIX Space Team identified and documented the information needed to address these problems, to determine if existing information sources are sufficient to provide that data and, if not, determine what is required and design a plan to obtain and populate the relevant data into the VODC, as means of integrating information for subsequent action.

As a result of a purposeful and repeatable process of defining each problem area, the team has identified necessary approaches and viable solutions, a process to collaboratively address the problems, and next steps to work toward solutions. Key recommendations include:

Solar power generation: Develop innovative data-driven technical products to control power connection to the electrical grid or to local battery storage. This is done by monitoring real time cloud obscuration of solar panels. Maximizing connection to the grid and minimizing battery storage time can create small improvements in power efficiency, which, if used at a large scale, can be compelling. This can be done by combining space information resources and ground-based in-situ sensors around a solar farm, or in medium-sized solar generation systems on building rooftops.

Transportation: Identify and integrate multiple information resources (space, air, terrestrial, maritime) to develop real time situational awareness of roadways for drivers and develop transportation routing efficiency enhancements based on this information.

Flooding prediction and response: Create actionable options for use by emergency managers for better pre-storm assessment of potential flooding areas, from onset, duration, and impacts. Use space based electro-optic data for more timely information on flooding extents, shortening response and recovery times, and improving situational awareness.

Water body monitoring/health: Use space, airborne and in-situ monitoring to provide timely and actionable data that support wide-area algae bloom detection.

Wildfire prevention: Utilize space-based (Landsat) multispectral data, publicly-available land use and weather data to support land analyses that improve timely fire danger monitoring and prediction.