Expedited Commercial Imagery Delivery through Reduced Ground Processing Time

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-101
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-101 TITLE: Expedited Commercial Imagery Delivery through Reduced Ground Processing Time

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Technology;Trusted AI and Autonomy

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a capability for edge node image processing latency reduction in the overall tasking to exploitation timeline.

DESCRIPTION: Units and organizations located in austere and/or denied locations require timely receipt of imagery to conduct operations. Recent advances in the ability to directly downlink raw imagery from commercial high resolution imaging satellites to Navy edge nodes located in the field promises to dramatically cut the time between when the image is taken and when it is available for exploitation. Units and organizations with little data connectivity can receive timely imagery and exploit it locally; however, even after the reductions provided by direct imagery delivery, processing time at the local edge nodes remains a bottleneck in this process. Current commercial edge node imagery processing often takes longer than 15-20 minutes to complete. The Navy seeks a solution that will shorten the processing time for imagery from tasking to imagery exploitation. There is currently nothing on the commercial market that can solve this issue.

The Navy needs a software solution that can reduce edge node processing times to below 5 minutes with a goal of sub minute processing times. The solution must run on local hardware at the edge node location, except in the case that processing occurs on-orbit before direct downlink (DDL). Software is expected to run on commodity hardware consisting of either CPU�s and/or GPU�s. A limited amount (1-2 rack units) of additional hardware, such as FPGA�s, may also be proposed in conjunction with the software. If additional hardware is added it must be rack mountable. Any modifications to the final processed image must not impact or reduce its exploitation potential.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for edge node image processing time reduction tool in the overall tasking to exploitation timeline that meets the parameters in the Description. Feasibility must be demonstrated through modeling and analysis. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype edge node image processing time reduction tool from concept development in Phase I. Demonstrate that the prototype meets parameters of the Description. The prototype will be tested to determine the capability meets performance goals of Navy requirements.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. Refine the prototype for use in Navy edge nodes. Support the Navy for testing and validation to certify and qualify the capability for Navy use.

Faster processing of images directly delivered to customers would be very helpful to first responders in disaster areas. The techniques used could also be applied to commercial applications to overall reduce processing time such as accidents, natural disasters, flooding and other rapidly changing situations with first responders.


  1. Ochs, Adam J., "Use of Commercial Imagery Capabilities in Support of Maritime Domain Awareness," June 2015 Naval Postgraduate School Thesis. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA632504.pdf.
  2. Hitchens, Theresa, "Army NRO Pioneer Direct Sat Imagery Downlink in Scarlet Dragon," 11-October 2011, Breaking Defense. https://breakingdefense.com/2021/10/army-nro-pioneer-direct-sat-imagery-downlink-in-scarlet-dragon/

KEYWORDS: Imagery Processing; Edge Node; Latency; Ground Processing; Imagery Exploitation; direct imagery delivery


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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Topic Q & A

5/11/23  Q. Could you please provide a) the bandwidth available for satellite-edge node and edge node-destination, b) the approximate range of the number of pixels of the images, and c) the parameters of the current CPU/GPU and onboard memory?
   A. Because the Navy is open to understanding the wide range of technological solutions, specifics for a), b), and c) will not be provided at this time.
5/3/23  Q. Please clarify what needs to occur to "process" the imagary.
   A. We are looking to understand the opportunities to decrease the time needed for image formation when commercial earth observation satellite data is first available on the ground. We are focused on decreasing the processing time between post �date received� and pre �data exploitation�. This can include first order data formation on the ground as well as methods to improve the data and increase the amount of data available for exploitation, such as (but not limited to) increasing the area coverage of a SAR.
5/2/23  Q. Will the imagery data for this task be provided?
   A. At this time, the imagery data will not be provided.

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