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Despite ceremony cancellation, USGIF honors 2020 award winners

April 22, 2020  - By

USGIF Awards Program logoThe USGIF Awards Program annually recognizes the exceptional work of the geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) tradecraft’s brightest minds and organizations pushing the community forward.

Award winners are usually recognized at the annual GEOINT Symposium. This year’s event, scheduled for April 26-29 in Tampa, Florida, was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, you will not see the awardees recognized on the GEOINT Symposium stage this year,” said Kevin Jackson, chair of the USGIF Awards Subcommittee. “So please take a moment to read their accomplishments and join me and the USGIF in congratulating the 2020 USGIF Achievement Awardees and the runners-up.”

Award winners are nominated by their colleagues and selected by the USGIF Awards Subcommittee.

“The 2020 USGIF awardees reflect the importance and the significance of the outstanding work that occurs daily in the GEOINT community,” Jackson said. “You will see how the GEOINT community always rises to the occasion to face head on the world’s toughest problems and this year is no exception.”


James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute

On Dec. 7, 2019, after denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea collapsed, North Korea reversed commitments made in Singapore and resumed engine testing at its Sohae Satellite Launch Center. Using new technological opportunities offered by high-cadence moderate resolution satellite imagery and flexible high-resolution satellite image tasking provided by Planet Labs, analysts at the CNS, through the use of open-source GEOINT, detected and correctly identified preparations for the engine test 39 hours before it occurred. Announcing in advance that North Korea was preparing to violate an international nonproliferation commitment.

Community Support

NGA Expeditionary Operations Office

NGA’s Office of Expeditionary Operations provides deployed personnel and technology to support GEOINT activities of worldwide U.S. military operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, and other national security objectives. The team’s world-class workforce seamlessly enables trusted global GEOINT capabilities today, while developing programs and processes to meet emerging challenges. Robust partnerships with DoD and IC allies fuel innovation and expertise, helping U.S. and foreign partners build programs that anticipate their needs, expanding the GEOINT community and optimizing meaningful consequence across the GEOINT enterprise.


Mark A. Skoog and Loyd R. Hook

Implementing digital terrain solutions for safer aviation has been a career-long goal for Mark Skoog and Loyd Hook. As true innovators and lifelong proponents of using digital terrain data, Skoog and Hook lead the development efforts of NASA’s award-winning Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), which prevents imminent collisions with the ground. Auto GCAS is the culmination of a decades-long effort to bring geospatial intelligence to aircraft safety. This work involved traveling the world, evaluating myriad digital terrain from Sweden to Hawaii. The team extensively tested the system to ensure against every category of controlled flight into terrain mishaps—and found it would have prevented every one, which resulted in ten lives saved thus far in the USAF operations.


Lockheed Martin Space GATR Team

Globally-scalable Automated Target Recognition (GATR) is an artificial intelligence system that finds objects of interest in satellite imagery on a worldwide basis. It was developed by a team of scientists and engineers from Lockheed Martin Space who combined state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms with scalable high-performance computing in a cloud-based framework to achieve high-speed global automated target recognition (ATR). Unlike other ATR systems, GATR searches extremely large geographic regions with accuracy and speed. The GATR team, led by Dr. Mark Pritt, includes Tyler Bartelmo, Gary Chern, Dr. Austen Groener, Michael Harner, Andy Lam, Stephen O’Neill, Ryan Soldin, and Steve Wozniak.


RS/GIS CX, The GRiD Team

David Finnegan and the Geospatial Repository & Data Management System (GRiD) program provide the Department of Defense (DoD), intelligence community and geospatial community with a centralized repository for the storage, discovery, and dissemination of critical terrain and 3D data. Prior to the GRiD program, the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) lacked a centralized mechanism for the storage and discovery of this essential content. Historically, the data was subject to local storage, limiting visibility and resulting in retasking collection assets for previously characterized areas, putting military personnel and equipment at risk. By partnering with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the DoD, the GRiD program is now the community standard and enterprise solution for 3D/elevation data discovery across the NSG.

USGIF, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, is dedicated to bringing together the many disciplines involved in GEOINT to exchange ideas, share best practices and promote the education and importance of a national geospatial intelligence agenda. For more on the awards program, visit the USGIF website.