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Posted: May 18, 2016 1:13 PM

Navy’s Minotaur System is a Step Toward Automated Data Analysis

By WILLIAM MATTHEWS, Seapower Special Correspondent

From its satellites to its submarines, the Navy has become very proficient at collecting data. The problem is turning that data into useful intelligence.

“We collect a ton of data,” said Capt. Jeffrey Czerewko, director of the Navy’s Battlespace Awareness Division. “What do we do with it? We can’t throw manpower at it.” There’s way too much data and far too few people to analyze it.

The problem has existed for years — and grown worse as sensors have gotten better. Data pours in from cameras, radars and other sensors above, on and under the sea. During a talk at the 2016 Sea-Air-Space Exposition May 18, Czerewko pointed to a chart: The flat line represents the manpower available to analyze data. The upward accelerating curve represents the torrent of data.

Automating data analysis has long been the answer — in theory, at least. But actually acquiring systems that are able to automate analysis has been slower in coming, especially on ships, aircraft and other forward deployable assets.

In recent months, the Navy has taken a step toward tackling the problem with a system called Minotaur. It is an automated intelligence processor that can be installed in aircraft to analyze the data coming in from sea search radars, electromagnetic spectrum sensors, video cameras and other sources.

An operator tells the Minotaur system on what information is of interest, and the processor combs through the incoming data to find the photos, video, signals or other data what seems relevant, Czerewko said.

It can enable one operator to do the work that would ordinarily take three, he said. “I’m putting Minotaur on as many planes as I can.”

The Navy needs more such solutions, he said. Ideally, they will be “platform and domain agnostic,” processors that are able to analyze intelligence gathered by manned and unmanned aircraft, ships or submarines.

Czerewko envisions “little black boxes” that can be installed in multiple platforms, linked to the sensors that are already there, and serve as “thinking tools” in the data collection process, he told industry representatives gathered to hear his presentation. 

“The art of the possible is unknown yet,” he said. But Czerewko has set a goal. He would like to cut by half the manpower devoted to the more mundane work of sorting through sensor data. If machines can be made to do that, sailors can then be freed to focus on the more cerebral work of analyzing what’s important, he said.

“Progress is being made,” much of it in military and university laboratories, he said. But the Navy also is appealing to industry for new ideas.



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