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AI Can Help Hunt Down Missile Sites in China

Wired – AI Can Help Hunt Down Missile Sites in China

“Intelligence agencies have a limited number of trained human analysts looking for undeclared nuclear facilities, or secret military sites, hidden among terabytes of satellite images. But the same sort of deep learning artificial intelligence that enables Google and Facebook to automatically filter images of human faces and cats could also prove invaluable in the world of spy versus spy. An early example: US researchers have trained deep learning algorithms to identify Chinese surface-to-air missile sites—hundreds of times faster than their human counterparts. The deep learning algorithms proved capable of helping people with no prior imagery analysis experience find surface-to-air missile sites scattered across nearly 90,000 square kilometers of southeastern China. Such AI based on neural networks—layers of artificial neuron capable of filtering and learning from huge amounts of data—matched the overall 90 percent accuracy of expert human imagery analysts in locating the missile sites. Perhaps even more impressively, the deep learning software helped humans reduce the time needed to eyeball potential missile sites from 60 hours to just 42 minutes. “The algorithms were used to find the locations where they said there is a high confidence of a missile site, and then humans reviewed the results for accuracy and figured out how much time the algorithms saved,” says Curt Davis, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence, at the University of Missouri. “To my knowledge that’s never been studied before: How much time did you save, and how does that ultimately impact the human performance?” The University of Missouri study, published on October 6 in the Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, comes at a time when satellite imagery analysts are figuratively drowning in a deluge of big data. DigitalGlobe, a leading commercial satellite imagery company, generates about 70 terabytes of raw satellite imagery each day, never mind all the imagery data coming from other commercial satellites and government spy satellites…”

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