NASA Glenn Research Center and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) sponsored a Cognitive Communications Workshop at the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) on June 27-28, 2017.  Dr. Janette Briones, the workshop chair, of the center’s Communications and Intelligent Systems Division, said that the aim of this workshop was to bring together Academia Researchers, Engineers, Technologists, Industry Personnel and Government agencies to discuss and present their recent advancements and future interest in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning with applications toward the development of cognitive communication systems for aerospace. 

The workshop was attended by more than 130 scientists and engineers composed of NASA Glenn employees, contractors, industry, academia, and other government agencies.  The workshop attracted interest across the agency, with NASA employees from GSFC, JPL, and HQ.  The workshop provided a collaborative forum for scientists and engineers to learn from each other with 28 speakers.  The presentations focused on advances in machine learning techniques and cognitive technologies, and their applications to address NASA technical challenges in space communications.

After the welcome by Rickey Shyne, the director of the Research and Engineering Directorate, the workshop featured four keynote speakers.  Mr. Badri Younes, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN), spoke on “SCaN Next Generation Communications Capabilities, a Beacon of Light into NASA’s Future.”  Dr. Steven “Cap” Rogers, a senior scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)/Dayton, spoke on “Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence and Human Machine Teaming – Frequently Asked Questions.”  Dr. James Lyke, a program manager in the AFRL/Kirtland Space Vehicles Directorate, spoke on “Resilient Space-based Software Defined Networks.”  Finally, Tim O’Shea, a Senior Research Associate at Virginia Tech, spoke on “Learning Signal Processing and Communications Systems from Data.” 

Two different tracks were offered: Cognitive Communication System and Applications and Platforms for Advancing Cognitive Communication Technology. In presentations, experts in the area talked about cognitive engines being developed for space communications, multi-objective reinforcement learning-based Deep Neural Networks, modulation classification of satellite communication signals using cumulants and neural networks, and many other machine learning algorithms and their applications. 

A key focus of the event was to apply new cognitive technologies to current communication research areas.  Dr. Briones said her team has been working on the Cognitive Communication System project to apply machine learning technologies to communication systems, such as software defined radios (SDRs) to improve performance.  Researchers attending the sessions said they are eager to put what they learned to use.  Dr. Graeme Smith, an Ohio State University professor, said he sees potential in applying machine learning techniques to cognitive radar experiments that he and his students are doing at The Ohio State University.  Dr. Smith said “For me the workshop was a real success: I enjoyed the technical sessions; the keynote addresses were excellent; and I have made several new contacts.”

Participation in this workshop helped to further develop the important work NASA GRC is doing in this area through investigating and applying emerging technologies in machine learning to address NASA’s technical challenges.  As Dr. Felix Miranda said, “This event helped solidify our position as The Cognitive Experts within NASA and SCaN, and it also established a strong relationship with our partners at AFRL and our friends in academia and industry.”

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