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Aptima’s Contract with AFRL to Improve Military Air Operations

Aptima’s Contract with AFRL to Improve Military Air Operations

Aptima’s Contract with AFRL to Improve Critical Workflows in Military Air Operations

Agent-based application to “learn” and model behavior of human and technical systems

Woburn, MA, March 15, 2010 – For the U.S. military, superior control of the skies depends on smooth and adept control from the ground. To support the Air Force’s increasingly complex missions, Aptima, which specializes in human-centered engineering, is developing MIMOD (Monitoring MIssion MODels for increased Mission Understanding), an application for improving the workflows in air operations centers, where teams need to plan and direct air combat missions with clock-work efficiency without interruption.

Through a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratories Information Directorate (AFRL Rome Laboratory), Aptima is designing MIMOD as an intelligent software program that will ’learn’ and build models of the complex web of activities that take place in air operations centers (AOCs), where personnel rely on a variety of technical systems to find, identify, and target enemy assets. As agent-based software, MIMOD will monitor and gather information on individual tasks and team activities, creating visual models for supervisors to see and manage these intricate operations.

The Air Force currently has limited capability to visualize AOC workflows, which require a large investment of expert time to build and keep these models up to date. By creating interactive displays that illuminate the state of AOC operations, commanders will be able to identify key points of coordination, avoid bottlenecks, and dynamically reroute tasks when human or technical systems are overburdened or unavailable, which can jeopardize air combat missions.

MIMOD is being funded by a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II contract, allowing Aptima to transition its earlier research in human performance to develop a commercial product to help ensure the success of Air Force missions.

MIMOD in the AOC

As the nerve centers of military air combat missions, AOCs are comprised of numerous cells, typically 3-8 person teams, performing a variety of inter-related tasks that require tight coordination within and across these units.

MIMOD’s agents will observe the AOC operations, registering the data that the individuals and teams interact with, the applications they use, and their methods of communications. Its algorithms will then generate workflow models, giving commanders the ability to forecast and plan the resources, pathways, and timeframes for current and future missions, pre-empting any problems that might encumber the AOC operations.

MIMOD will also allow the Air Force to assess workflows over time, leading to improved training for the most challenging tasks, and to help design future systems that can proactively push information to operators for better task execution and team coordination.