For research that could provide warfighters with extremely accurate digital images of future combat zones and potential enemies, a French mathematician sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently won the prestigious Longuet-Higgins Prize from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society.
Dr. Jean-Michel Morel specializes in image processing, a discipline combining information technology and mathematics to study digital images and improve their quality.
Morel’s ONR work involves taking various 2D satellite photos of an area and—by feeding complex mathematical equations into a series of fast-paced algorithms—merging those photos in real time until they present a 3D scene. This provides military communications personnel in the field with richer, automatically generated details about different terrains and landscapes such as mountains, rivers or valleys.
Besides mapping, the improved imagery could help warfighters detect and identify possible threats such as tanks or vehicles laden with explosives, according to Program Officer Predrag Neskovic, who works in ONR’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Department.
“Defense and security rely more and more on satellite images to analyze threats and provide an adequate response,” said Morel. “However, these images are so huge and numerous that it’s impossible to review them exhaustively. You need fast, automatic algorithms that can analyze data as it comes in.”