Press Release

NASA SBIR Project Improves Geospatial Information Techniques

By SpaceRef Editor
December 6, 2002
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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. — Software developed under the NASA Small Business Innovation
Research (SBIR) Program at Stennis Space Center is changing the way scientists gather geospatial
information from digital imagery to help us better understand and protect our home planet.

Feature Analyst is a software extension developed by Visual Learning Systems Inc. (VLS),
Missoula, Mont., for geographic information systems (GIS) and image processing software. Feature
Analyst is sophisticated computer software that can find features of interest in digital imagery.  The
software translates the characteristics of multispectral, or many-colored, image data into
understandable spatial patterns that scientists and image analysts can interpret. It was developed in
response to NASA’s critical need to accelerate and automate the interpretation of digital remotely
sensed data to support its Earth Science Enterprise mission. Remotely sensed data, information about
the Earth collected from distant vantage points, includes satellite imagery.

Feature Analyst uses machine learning techniques to rapidly recognize and analyze the color
subtleties in digital imagery. The analyst can extract specific features such as roads, buildings,
bridges and vegetation. This approach has demonstrated greater accuracy than traditional image
processing techniques and may also decrease the costs of extracting information from imagery to
support GIS applications.

In addition to various commercial uses, other primary markets for Feature Analyst include the
U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Department of
Agriculture Forest Service and NASA. These agencies require timely, accurate and relevant GIS data
to support intelligence, defense and emergency planning operations, and local government GIS

“Commercial users, as well as state, local, regional and tribal government planning agencies,
will benefit from Feature Analyst’s capabilities in various geospatial information requirements, such
as forestry, agriculture, infrastructure planning, urban zoning and environmental planning
operations,” said NASA’s Bill Graham of the Earth Science Applications Directorate at Stennis and
technical representative for the program.

The SBIR Program provides small businesses with federal funds for conducting research and

“The SBIR Program was a natural outlet for VLS to pursue federal grant opportunities to
drive the Feature Analyst technology into the commercial GIS market. The need is there for users
wanting a powerful and easy-to-use tool for extracting features from digital imagery,” said Stuart
Blundell, Chief Operating Officer, VLS.

The SBIR Program at Stennis Space Center is managed by the Office of Technology
Development and Transfer.

For more information about the NASA SBIR Program, contact Ray Bryant at the Office of
Technology Development and Transfer at (228) 688-1929 or visit

SpaceRef staff editor.