By Dan Lafontaine, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering CommandOctober 23, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Oct. 23, 2013) -- British and U.S. Army researchers are partnering to enhance biometric and surveillance capabilities as the result of an exchange program between the countries.
Dr. Kevin Leonard, a U.S. Army physicist, focused on advancing facial-recognition technologies during his two-year assignment in the United Kingdom.
"How far can we look and see who someone is? How can we help our Soldiers see better and farther?" said Leonard, who was assigned to the UK Defence Science Technology Laboratory in Salisbury.
Leonard said he wanted to better understand how different countries approach similar scientific topics. When the DSTL chief executive visited Leonard's organization to talk about possible collaborations, an area of mutual interest was biometrics. The discussions piqued Leonard's interest.
"When the opportunity came up, I gladly volunteered," he said. "I wanted a broader understanding of my technology area to see what other people were doing and how our allies worked. There are a lot of similarities."
Through the Army's Engineer and Scientist Exchange Program, Leonard worked at DSTL's Sensors and Countermeasures Department from August 2011 to July 2013. He worked with his British colleagues on using sensors and computer-vision algorithms for force protection and surveillance at forward operating bases.
"When someone comes into the base, how can we determine who they say they are? How can we better monitor that?" Leonard said. "Are there tools that can make the process smoother and more effective? Are there ways we can improve the capability without slowing down the process?"
Building a three-dimensional scanner was the greatest accomplishment for Leonard and his co-workers during his assignment, he said. The team showed off the scanner, which furthers facial-recognition capabilities by capturing 3D images of faces, during a UK Ministry of Defense technology demonstration day.
"Three-dimensional images of faces help in a lot of ways. The main idea is that if you enroll someone in three dimensions, you can generate any two-dimensional image at a later date," Leonard said. "With a 3D image database, you can theoretically recreate any pose. We were exploring that to see what type of utility it has."
Leonard also published a paper during his ESEP assignment on the effects of atmospheric turbulence on facial-recognition algorithms. He explained that turbulence causes imagery to become distorted and blurred.
Now back in the United States, Leonard is trying to establish formal collaborations with the UK to continue the facial-recognition work through his home organization, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center's Night Vision Electronic Sensors Directorate at Fort Belvoir, Va.
CERDEC is one of the seven research centers that make up the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
The exchange program helped Leonard broaden his connections in the international scientific community through interactions with British universities and conferences. He is looking to build connections between the UK and U.S. organizations.
"I was always on the look-out for things they were doing, maybe not in my area, but in areas where I knew other people," he said. "I'm keeping my ears open. If I hear work going on at NVESD or the Army at large, I'll try to build those connections with people at DSTL who are doing similar things."
Mid-career level Army engineers and scientists can apply through ESEP to work with an American ally for a year with the possibility of an extension. Applicants may arrange for an assignment from a list of 17 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Chile.
Jason Craley, a member of RDECOM's Global Technology Integration team, works with interested ESEP applicants and coordinates the packages before submitting them to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation. He said applications should be aligned to Army science and technology objectives.
Craley said the ESEP application requires four elements: a resume, a list of career-broadening objectives, a well-defined and thorough position description outlining the assignment, and an endorsement letter signed by a Senior Executive Service member or general officer. Language capability and a cost estimate are also required for the desired country.
The next application opportunity will be ESEP Group 11, which is expected to be released in April 2014, Craley said. Packages would be due to RDECOM GTI in early October 2014, with deployments beginning in August 2015.
For more information on ESEP, contact Jason Craley at (410) 278-8591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.