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Air Force Grant Supports Intelligence Gathering Software Development

August 14, 2009

Unmanned aerial or other vehicles are increasingly a major source of information used to plan battle actions. But compiling and evaluating information gathered by these sources is often a piecemeal process. Computer Science and Engineering researchers Drs. Sharma Chakravarthy and Mohan Kumar at The University of Texas at Arlington are working to overcome this limitation. They have secured a one-year, $267,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop mechanisms to organize data from several sources into useful information, and to efficiently distribute and retrieve information

Their project, titled “A Distributed Middleware-based Architecture for Fault-tolerant Computing over Distributed Repositories,” deals with computations of data collected by unmanned aerial or other vehicles (nodes). In a typical scenario, connectivity between nodes is constantly and dynamically changing, and their data bandwidth (the amount of information transferred) can vary from low to high. Computation tasks (query, search, subscription, notification) that use data and services from multiple nodes need to be optimized subject to several Quality of Service requirements (time to acquire result, response time) as well as storage and communication costs.

In the setup being created by Drs. Chakravarthy and Kumar, each node is independently acquiring different types of data (location, telemetry and images) and storing them locally. The data is stored in the form of managed information objects and can be sent on-demand to ground operators and other nodes, based on connectivity.

Nodes can play different roles depending upon the resources available onboard, such as collecting and forwarding raw data; collecting, processing and forwarding processed data; and storing/holding and forwarding data. A single node can play different/multiple roles for different types of data at any given time. The ability to reliably replicate information is important, as constant connectivity cannot be guaranteed.

“The outcome of this project will provide a holistic picture of the theater of operation for the battle planners/warfighters,” said Dr. Chakravarthy. “From a research viewpoint, this project provides an opportunity to work on a real-life problem that requires a synergistic solution to challenges from the areas of databases, networks and real-time processing.”

A small portion of the grant will be used by subcontractors Raytheon and the Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly University of Missouri - Rolla).