October 26, 2022 (Mountain View, CA) — High resolution (spatial and temporal) global weather data is more readily accessible from commercial platforms, and is increasingly important for making well-informed decisions in geographically diverse environments around the world. To tap into this technology, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is partnering with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC)’s Weather Systems Branch to develop ground, air, and space-based prototypes for global weather sensing. DIU and AFLCMC awarded five contracts to prototype commercial solutions that will meet U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Department of Defense (DoD) operational needs.
The DIU Commercial Solutions Opening’s (CSO's) contracting process is unique. And subject to a Memorandum of Agreement between DIU and PEO Digital, this was the first time an outside contracting organization used the DIU process to contract vendors for a prototype with DIU guidance and its resources. DIU hopes this could be a new model for scaling the use of CSO throughout the rest of the DoD and potentially more broadly across the U.S. Government.
Weather data solutions are currently utilized by a diverse set of industries that include agriculture, transportation management, and retail/wholesale management. In mid-May 2022, DoD sought commercial data solutions for global weather sensing via ground, air, and space-based platforms to improve three things:
global environmental situational awareness and analysis,
performance of global and regional weather physics-based models, and
performance of global machine learning (ML)-based models
The Department will use the commercial data for weather forecasting, impact applications, and climate change assessments. In this prototype, DoD is prioritizing solutions that provide data from outside the continental United States.
Solutions within DIU’s Global Weather Sensing project include satellite constellations with remote sensing technology, ground-based commercial networks with specific weather parameter sensing and/or leveraging Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology, and airborne commercial platforms that actively or passively sense weather parameters. Data collected during this pilot will be made accessible for use in government-run Observing System Simulation Experiments and to evaluate improvements to the USAF’s current and emerging suite of numerical weather modeling. The data may also be used for machine learning (ML) efforts of data analysis, data curation, model training, and model metrics towards evaluating improvement to USAF weather community’s current and emerging suite of operational models.
The resultant data sources and interfaces will need to be compatible with the USAF’s Weather Virtual Private Cloud.
“We are striving to develop and provide capabilities to the Air Force and across the DoD that create not only an information advantage, but most importantly provide a decision advantage over near-peer competitors,” said John Dreher, Materiel Leader, Weather Systems Branch, AFLCMC. “With the help of DIU, we’re accelerating the delivery of commercial weather sensing technology to meet the operational need.”
Five companies received prototype awards:
Depiction of the WeatherHive System. (Courtesy of Greensight)
Greensight - Greensight’s WeatherHive is a new type of atmospheric monitoring technology system that uses nano-sized drones to directly measure atmospheric conditions.
Muon Space Test Apparatus and associated equipment (courtesy of Muon Space)
Muon Space - Muon Space designs, builds, and operates small satellites and scientific instruments to better understand and react to our changing planet.
Example of NextGen Federal Systems Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence Output for a Storm
NextGen Federal Systems - NextGen Federal Systems, will develop the Market Environmental Data for Intelligent Applications (MEDIA) prototype to curate commercially offered weather data and develop machine learning workflows and models for Air Force Weather (AFW).
The Tomorrow.io Microwave Sounder (from Tomorrow.io)
Tomorrow.io - Tomorrow.io will develop and use microwave (MW) radiometer sensing technology on small satellites in Low Earth Orbit to assess weather in Earth’s atmosphere.
WindBorne Global Sounding Balloon (from Windborne Systems)
Windborne Systems - WindBorne designs, builds, and operates a constellation of long-duration smart weather balloons providing global in-situ weather observations.