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Air Force awards millions to Birmingham-based AI startup

The projects would detect foreign objects on airfields and improve perimeter security at Air Force installations.

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The Department of the Air Force, through its innovation funding program AFWERX, awarded two $1.25 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Direct-to-Phase II grants to Birmingham-based tech startup Analytical AI to research and develop artificial-intelligence-powered debris detection and perimeter security systems.

The projects would detect foreign objects on airfields and improve perimeter security at Air Force installations. Since the projects did not undergo a Phase I SBIR feasibility study, details on the projects are unclear.

“We were shocked when we received the notice of award for BOTH of the submitted proposals. We are honored to be doing this important work to make our Airmen, our country, and our world a safer place,” Analytical AI said in a LinkedIn post.

The $1.25 million awards are the maximum amount AFWERX can initially award a Phase II project without special consideration. In March, Analytical AI also received funding — no more than $250,000 — from Innovate Alabama’s second round of supplemental grants SBIR projects to hire developers and purchase hardware.

“Thanks to the collective effort of the Alabama Legislature and our state’s innovation ecosystem, we are able to invest in Alabama entrepreneurs who are developing breakthrough technology with the potential to solve global issues,” Michael Chambers, an Innovate Alabama board member, said. “Since recipients are spread across different sectors from aerospace and healthtech to agriculture and manufacturing, there is an incredible opportunity to advance Alabama’s economy through each of these core industries.”

Analytical AI provides technology to multiple federal agencies. On June 15, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a $199,500 Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) award to Analytical AI to build an AI algorithm to link objects to people then track those people. The DHS proposed this technology could be used to identify unattended baggage in airports and track people interacting with it.

“The goal of this project is to offer those heavily populated locations a layer of safety that enables quick, effective action in the event an unknown threat presents itself,” Melissa Oh, managing director of SVIP, said. “Analytical AI’s innovative technology monitors movement and the exchange of objects, as well as unattended objects leading to the prevention of attacks in public areas.”

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Analytical AI previously worked with the DHS when granted a phase I SBIR award of $148,372 to develop passive screening for limited mobility passengers. Such technology could be utilized through “Detection at Range” passive terahertz cameras which can be utilized covertly — in this case, on potentially handicapped passengers. The project was awarded a $1 million second phase in April, and Analytical AI showcases their on-person threat detection algorithms.

Analytical AI submitted their two proposals after undergoing training by the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) to work with the Department of Defense (DOD). NSIN partners with small companies in historically underutilized business zones to solve DOD problems and secure government funding.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the passive terahertz screening project did not appear to have been renewed for a second phase. It was renewed in April, but DHS has not yet announced the award.

Samuel Stettheimer is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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