Collecting Data From Above with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Dr. Andy Brooks

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When you think of secretive three-letter agencies, you might think of the CIA, FBI, or NSA. 

But there is one three-letter agency you rely on an almost daily basis. 

That’s the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 

The NGA’s motto is: “Know the Earth… Show the Way… Understand the World.”

The NGA is tasked with collecting, analyzing, and distributing geospatial intelligence in support of national security.

The agency as it’s known today was created in 2004, but the NGA’s story dates all the way back to World War I where aerial photography began to play an ever-increasing role. Multiple photographs of targets taken from different angles would be combined, paving the way for better intelligence and mapmaking.

Over the years, that technology has evolved significantly, and the different uses for the data are ever-increasing. The NGA of today has engaged in many different pursuits, some of which include:

  • Mapping and locating the compound where Osama bin Laden was ultimately found and killed 
  • Making an investment into the software that would become Google Earth 
  • Partnering with Google to use reduced image resolution spy satellite footage for Google Earth 
  • Plus, helping in a number of natural disasters, open-sourcing software, and much more.

That’s just a 30,000-foot view of the NGA.

In today’s episode, Chad sits down to interview Dr. Andy Brooks, the Chief Data Scientist of the NGA. Dr. Brooks’s career spans both the private and public sectors, and prior to his role at the NGA, he was an instructor at the School of Information at UC Berkeley. Chad and Dr. Brooks discuss his journey to the NGA, some of the work he does at NGA, and the role of data in the mission to build accurate, real-time maps of the world.


Episode 19