Philip McTigue and the evolution of Imagery for Geospatial Intelligence

satellite view of earth

Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is intelligence acquired from the exploitation of imagery and geospatial information. Philip McTigue has seen the analysis of this data provide boundless assistance in fields ranging from military and homeland security to corporate and private industries striving to act and react to geographically referenced trends. Both geospatial information and imagery are key components in GEOINT. Methods for recognizing and identifying key geospatial information and providing this data to the end users or analyst are continually being improved. Additionally, filtering non-essential data from essential data continues to be an improving skillset. Although these improvements potentially offer value to the GEOINT profession, Philip McTigue believes it is the use of improved imagery that will provide the biggest advantages to GEOINT. Philip McTigue see’s the evolution of GEOINT over the next several years including the collection and analytics of higher resolution imagery providing increased information extraction from these datasets.  

Accurately described by a product manager at Airbus Defense and Space, a geo-referenced imagery layer is the foundation for all GEOINT activities. In fact the use of imagery has permeated nearly all aspects of daily life. Philip McTigue notes the advent of Google Earth and street view imagery has brought the concept of imagery use to the common person for nearly all activities. Whether going to a new store to shop, a new restaurant in an unknown part of town or on vacation, it is commonplace to first look at the environment to determine what to expect once a person arrives at these new locations.  

The desire to know what to expect in a new location is not a monopoly for vacationers. Imagery is one of the two key elements in GEOINT and with improved imagery comes improved data derived from those images. Improved imagery could once be defined as simply better resolution, but Philip McTigue has seen remote sensing become more than satellite collection providing an ortho view of the globe. Sensors have been moved from high flying satellites to aerial platforms flying only a couple thousand feet above the surface of the earth providing much better resolution for imagery. Even newer trends in imagery, and a trend Philip McTigue has participated in during his career is collecting geo-referenced oblique images more common to the human view of the world. Philip McTigue notes the use of derivative products from imagery such as 3D models give a more game like view creating an immersive environment for users. The demand for higher resolution imagery will continue as the future evolution of GEOINT turns towards the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).  

The use of UAS as a maturing GEOINT tool is discussed in the USGIF State and Future of GEOINT 2017 report. In this report UAS is described as an additional tool to complement existing collection platforms and provide data that was otherwise unavailable. Philip McTigue admits UAS can be mounted with many different sensors and considering their lower altitude and constantly improving flight times the platforms will make the use of imagery sensors an integral part of higher resolution imagery collection. The dense imagery data that can be collected when flying literally dozens of feet above an area of interest (AOI) provides imagery that is otherwise unattainable from aerial platforms.  

It would be difficult to discuss the collection of higher resolution imagery, whether derived from aerial platforms with improving sensors or from UAS to not include the concept of deep learning regarding the future evolution of GEOINT. Philip McTigue has seen deep learning used in GEOINT to look for and analyze objects in large geographic areas. Dr. Colleen McCue, a data scientist at CACI and author, states this version of artificial intelligence can be very useful in performing tasks humans cannot, like analyzing massive amounts of data, or completing mundane and boring tasks that are highly repetitive.  

Philip McTigue states the demand for higher resolution imagery will continue in the future evolution of GEOINT and lead to increased dependency on UAS and deep learning machines to process and analyze the massive data being collected.  

Combining his corporate experience in the GEOINT profession with his Masters in Homeland Security from Northeastern University Philip McTigue brings a strong and extensive military, law enforcement and intelligence community background providing him a three-dimensional view in the advancement and growth of these growing GEOINT disciplines.  

The multi-faceted elements of GEOINT certainly provide no shortage of areas for GEOINT personnel like Philip McTigue to make contributions toward industry improvements. Hardware and software are without a doubt extremely important, but these can be created, built or improved by outside industries and thus moved into GEOINT for inclusion in the profession. They are vital, but the process of analyzing geospatial information is of equal or arguably greater importance to GEOINT. The main element of this industry and the strength of GEOINT will remain the people who drive all those advancements in the industry and ultimately are responsible for the success or failure of GEOINT.  

As Dr. Murdock says in the opening statement of the USGIF State and Future of GEOINT 2017 report “analysts remain at the heart of the GEOINT enterprise”. Philip McTigue agrees with Dr. Murdock as he expands upon those sentiments saying that educating and training analysts is more important than ever as the impact of mistakes can be very detrimental to the industry. One of the main objectives stressed by the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) Strategy report 2013-2018 is to “advance the education, training and skill development to broaden the utility and value of GEOINT”. It is no coincidence that both the USGIF and the NSG stress the importance of education for personnel in the GEOINT community. Philip McTigue believes his own education is a continually growing facet of his career and recognizes the importance of continued education in such a technical profession.  

Philip McTigue stated he believes the main element that needs continued improvement in GEOINT is the training and education of the personnel in the industry. Technology changes at light speed and remaining educated and informed will continue to drive the industry to new heights. Mr. McTigue added that by maintaining education and training in this field, other aspects of GEOINT will improve as well such as the processes being used for data extraction and geospatial information analytics. Philip McTigue hopes his role in contributing to future effective solutions within the GEOINT field will be based on his continued education driving advancements in GEOINT that are relevant and add to the future success of the industry.   

Philip McTigue recognizes his excitement and passion for improving imagery in the GEOINT field may be impacted by an experience he had while conducting operations in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In 2007, his team had extremely poor ortho imagery of the city acquired by what Philip McTigue described as, “satellites from the Cold War era”. Philip McTigue was working for the intelligence community and they were forced to use publicly available imagery which was long outdated and was not an accurate depiction of their area of operations. Soon after this experience Philip McTigue returned home and found that the police department which he had left only about 18 months earlier had annually updated, high resolution, oblique imagery in their police vehicles via their computers. This sparked a passion in Philip McTigue to provide data that rich to military assets in conflict zones like the one he had just left. For Philip McTigue it also created a great interest in how he could be a part of that change. Philip McTigue credits this as the moment where his professional career began, and why he continues to educate himself in a field in which he is excited to be employed.  

Having spent a significant number of years devoted to police work and working in conflict zones around the globe including Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan and Kosovo Philip McTigue has developed a passion for finding innovative ways to improve the world we live in. Having been introduced professionally to the GEOINT community he sees an opportunity to use his career in a manner that improves the global community by using technology and geospatial data.