Images show changing patterns of activity at stores in Sterling, Virginia, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: BlackSky

WASHINGTON — Earth-observation company BlackSky announced July 21 it received a U.S. Air Force contract to monitor overseas U.S. military bases, detect outbreaks and analyze the spread of COVID-19.

The contract was awarded by the Air Force’s technology accelerator known as AFWERX and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

The Air Force will use BlackSky’s artificial intelligence and machine learning analytics platform to monitor areas and “track the spread of COVID-19 to ensure the protection of deployed personnel, and secure critical nodes of the supply chain,” the company said in a news release.

BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole, said the company will combine global geospatial data sources with satellite remote sensing data to provide a “near-real time look at the evolving pandemic.”

The BlackSky platform will analyze anomalies and monitor the application of social distancing. “These measurements will then be correlated against the reported infection numbers coming from local governments and integrated into the latest epidemiology models to predict the risk to deployed U.S. Air Force personnel and the surrounding communities,” the company said.

The military’s supply chain also will be monitored. BlackSky will track logistics depots, maintenance facilities, petroleum reserves and airports and provide alerts and notifications when changes in activity level or other anomalies are observed.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...