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Geointelligence: Amalgamation of Multiple Technologies

Armed forces across the globe have witnessed a tremendous transformation in the last few decades, driven by the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Technological developments, particularly in electronics and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), have led to the concept of Network Centric Warfare (NCW), characterised by exponentially enhanced situational awareness, decision making, dissemination of information and precision strike capability. Commanders, who employ these capabilities innovatively, achieve success at a fast tempo and at the minimal cost. Geointelligence is a critical requirement for defence and security operations in Information Age Warfare, mainly due to the need of reliable and real time information integrated with spatial data. Creation of a credible GIS infrastructure is a necessity and spatial information must flow from battle space deployed sensors to the warfighter and weapon platforms. It underpins not only defence and security, but also public safety and disaster management.

Recent technological developments in science and engineering, such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, radar, lidar, robotics, micro-electro and micro opto-electro systems, RFID, materials- polymers, ceramics, alloys etc., have improved our capability to obtain information using a wide range of sophisticatedly engineered sensors that are smaller in size and lighter in weight, but come with higher resolution. These sensors can be located below, on and above the ground, on airborne and space-based platforms, such as UAVs, aircraft and satellites. These platforms too have undergone a quantitative change due to the R&D in engineering, improving their efficiency, accuracy and endurance thereby resulting in enhanced remote sensing and photogrammetry capabilities. A variety of UAVs (micro, mini, MALE, HALE), with specialised sensor payloads and longer endurance can provide round the clock Full Motion Video (FMV) coverage of the area of interest. Satellites can be launched in Low(LEO), Medium(MEO) and Geostationary(GEO) earth orbits, equipped with various sensors, including SAR, to meet specific data collection requirements and facilitating communications. Multidimensional visualisation of geospatial data helps create 3D Digital Terrain Models (DTM), which are very useful for military operations. The emerging trend now is towards 4D visualisation by incorporating the time component. Our capability to receive and distribute this huge collected data quickly has also improved tremendously, due to developments in Information and Communication Technology, such as cloud computing. This has resulted in the availability of a huge amount of data from multiple sources, which needs to be analysed in real time to produce actionable geointelligence. The problem, however, is that despite considerable advances in our ability to process information, it has not kept pace with the increased data being generated.

Technological advances in pattern recognition, analysis tools, and visualisation techniques are grappling with this task in an effort to make it fully automated. Currently, however, human intervention is required in this critical field of data analysis and the quality of geointelligence derived from this huge data depends to a great degree on the expertise and availability of data analysts. Technology no doubt improves the quality of geointelligence, but geointelligence requires more than just technology — it requires people and leadership.