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Two California AI companies win Air Force SBIR awards

The US Air Force's AFWERX innovation program doubled down on its commitment to AI and machine learning technologies in April, awarding Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funds to two different California companies with AI-based products.

MSBAI, an Air Force Techstars 2020 company based in Los Angeles, was awarded an AFWERX SBIR Phase 1 contract to examine integrating its GURU technology to Air Force applications.

Engineers use computer simulations for anything from tracking airflow patterns over wings to thermal analysis of the hot section in gas turbines. But the complexity of simulation software can limit its practical utility. MSBAI created GURU, an AI-driven assistant that learns to run the complicated software itself so people don't have to — minimizing the human workload needed to translate engineering questions into computational workflows.

With cloud systems already offering the compute power of government supercomputers from not long ago, it takes more time to set up a structural/thermal/fluid/trajectory analysis than it does for the computers to run them. The newest exascale, and coming quantum systems, will require this kind of AI layer for humans to be able to keep up.

There are numerous dual-use applications that come from enabling more engineers to use the best design & analysis software and deploy it at high performance computing scale: manufacturers stand to gain a 500-to-1 return on investment, and the Department of Defense will save billions of dollars in aircraft sustainment and gain advantages in rapid reaction. GURU's commercial deployment is SaaS B2B, and it will be a game-changer for remote work.

"As an engineer who struggled with these overly complicated simulation software packages myself, I felt the pain that GURU relieves," says Warren Katz, Managing Director of the Air Force Accelerator Powered by Techstars. "The award of this Phase I SBIR to MSBAI will ultimately enable engineers throughout the DoD that are working on our toughest problems in hypersonics, quantum computing, heat transfer, optics, electromagnetics, fluid mechanics, etc. to make many more trials per day and enable many more engineers to use these impossibly complex tools."

Meanwhile, existing Air Force partner Falkonry, Inc. announced it has received an SBIR strategic funding increase. These additional funds will help Sunnyvale, California-based Falkonry expand deployment of its operational AI technology to additional Department of Defense (DoD) customers, including several that have already signed on following the successful completion of early round evaluations.

Falkonry was one of 21 companies that were tentatively selected to receive part of a combined $550 million in Strategic Financing (STRATFI) contracts. Falkonry was selected because of its ability to meet one of the core pillars of the Air Force strategy, which is rapid, effective decision making. Falkonry’s anomaly detection capability has proven to deliver valuable data insights that help operators quickly observe and react in mission critical situations.

"This award is a significant milestone given only to companies that have proven the value of their technology, and their potential to scale rapidly, as demand from military customers grows," said Dr. Nikunj Mehta, Founder and CEO of Falkonry. "We are currently integrated into the DoD analysis platforms, where we have tripled the number of customers we are now serving, and are ready to help even more military customers in both classified and unclassified environments as their needs for secure operational AI continues to grow."

Falkonry has already completed Phase I and is currently in Phase II of its AFWERX SBIR contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). During these evaluations, the Falkonry LRS operational AI product was proven to be easily deployable, scalable, highly secure and able to handle massive amounts of data – all of which are key requirements in defense and intelligence applications. By enabling military users to discover, explain and predict critical events from operational data without requiring data scientists, Falkonry LRS provides a new generation of operational AI capabilities to enable mission success and support critical infrastructure.

During Phase I, Falkonry explored critical operational data problems within the Air Force community and was selected by STRATCOM’s Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC) to go forward into Phase II. Now in Phase II of this contract, Falkonry’s AI-enabled product is helping JWAC analyze massive amounts of operational data, discover patterns at unprecedented scale and provide real-time inferencing.

"The most complex problems faced in crisis operations and contingency planning involve analysis of large, complex data sets," said Laura Stuart, R&D Project Manager, Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), USAF. "Machine-learning approaches, such as those provided by Falkonry, are required to augment humans in mining electronic intelligence (ELINT) data to identify system behavior patterns."

To provide the highest level of security for government requirements, Falkonry has developed an "Air Gap" version of Falkonry LRS. Air Gap is a network security measure employed on one or more computers to ensure that a secure computer network is physically isolated from unsecured networks, such as the public Internet or an unsecured local area network.

Read more about the MBSAI award: http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/state/air-force-awards-contract...

Read more about the Falkonry award: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-air-force-awards-strategic-133000188.html

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