Intelligence and military researchers want to merge facial recognition with other biometric methods to identify people from long distances and steep angles.
The intelligence community wants to put biometric identification technology on drones but has hit a wall when it comes to the most widely used biometric: facial recognition.
Federal programs experimenting with facial recognition technology have found the reliability depends greatly on lighting, camera position and other environmental factors—elements that are almost impossible to control at long range. But improvements in computer vision and techniques that take a subject’s entire body into account are increasing the possibilities.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, issued a broad agency announcement solicitation for its latest attempt to improve biometrics at range, the Biometric Recognition and Identification at Altitude and Range, or BRIAR, program.
“The BRIAR program aims to develop software algorithm-based systems capable of performing whole-body biometric identification at long-range and from elevated platforms,” the call states, outlining a three-phase process to prototype and test novel ways to incorporate multiple biometric signatures—such as face, gait and body type—to improve identification and verification at long ranges and steep angles.
“Many intelligence community and Department of Defense agencies require the ability to identify or recognize individuals under challenging scenarios, such as at long-range (e.g., 300+ meters), through atmospheric turbulence, or from elevated and/or aerial sensor platforms (e.g., ≥20° sensor view angle from watch towers or unmanned aerial vehicles,” according to the solicitation posted to beta.SAM.gov.
“Expanding the range of conditions in which accurate and reliable biometric-based identification could be performed would greatly improve the number of addressable missions, types of platforms and sensors from which biometrics can be reliably used, and quality of outcomes and decisions.”
The solicitation call notes facial recognition has “increasingly become the biometric modality best suited for [intelligence community] and DOD missions,” particularly when operators cannot control environmental factors—called out in the document as pose, illumination and expression, or PIE.
While these factors—the position of the subject, lighting around them and their facial expression—determine the quality of the image and subsequent matching attempts, “Over the past six years, there have been notable advances in computer vision to facilitate unconstrained” facial recognition, the document states.