DOD develops Web apps to fight pirates (the real kind)

The Defense Department is looking for a few good Web applications — to fight piracy. A project managed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will develop software-based tools that will help U.S. and coalition warships share information on operations ranging from anti-piracy missions to going after drug smugglers and arms traffickers.

One of 14 projects receiving $1 million awards from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the International Collaborative Development for Enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness (ICODE MDA), is a joint research partnership between the ONR and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center-Pacific. Funding for the effort will be awarded this fall through the Coalition Warfare Program, which funds international collaborative research.

For the ICODE MDA program, the ONR is working with scientists in Chile to build Web-based applications, or widgets. The widgets will be used by sailors and other maritime personnel to analyze data about pirates and other criminal groups operating on the high seas.

The ONR is collaborating with researchers at one of Chile’s top engineering schools, the Technical University of Federico Santa Maria, to create widgets that will run in an open-source environment. The work will focus on developing software to improve automation, small target detection and intent detection, ONR officials said. For example, intent detection software tools would allow sailors to determine if a vessel was indeed a fishing trawler or a pirate mother ship in search of new victims.

One of ICODE MDA's key goals is for the Web tools to be compatible with a number of naval maritime networks so that navies around the world can share information, ONR officials said. The work with Chile is part of a larger effort involving nations in Africa. Researchers at the University of Ghana, the University of Pretoria, the University of Mauritius, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa are all contributing to the ICODE MDA effort.

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