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Descartes Labs wins $2.2 million contract from Kirtland AFB

By TEYA VITU | The Santa Fe New Mexican | Published: October 27, 2020

(Tribune News Service) — Santa Fe-based Descartes Labs has been awarded a two-year, $2.2 million contract to collaborate with the U.S. Air Force to develop technology to help military analysts and troops in the field digest massive amounts of data in real time.

Descartes will work on this research and development project with the Air Force Research Lab's Space Technology Advanced Research program based at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

The contract and a second Air Force contract issued in July strengthen the company's initial forays into the government sector, said Matt Tirman, head of government business at Descartes Labs.

Descartes is a spinoff company from Los Alamos National Laboratory that has focused on commercial projects since its establishment in 2015. The intention has been to prove the company's geospatial analytics technology in the private sector before seeking government contracts, Tirman said.

"The U.S. government is a natural fit for us," he said in an interview.

Descartes is the acknowledged leader of Santa Fe tech startups in recent years, said Marie Longserre, CEO of the Santa Fe Business Incubator.

The contract with the advanced research program at Kirtland will have Descartes Labs process prodigious amounts of satellite and radar data through its geospatial platform, then "clean" the information and prepare it in real time for analysts and warfighters.

Descartes also will enhance the ability of the Air Force Research Lab to generate moving target indication data for ground and airborne targets, Tirman said.

He said Descartes Labs will create new capabilities for the Air Force to use data.

"All of this data is just setting out there, waiting to be utilized for active missions and national security applications," Tirman said.

Descartes is undertaking the R&D aspect, which, if successful, will have the technology deployed to a "permanent home."

"Through increasing use of diverse types of data, the Air Force is laying the groundwork to solve tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance problems now and in the future," Descartes Labs co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Mike Warren said in a news release.

A July contract with the Air Force Research Lab and AFWERX, an Air Force program that fosters innovation, has Descartes developing a vector streaming engine to take data signals from around the world and display them in near real time, Tirman said.

Descartes in 2017 received a $1.5 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant to use satellite imagery to analyze and predict crop performance across the Middle East and North Africa.

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