Melanie Stricklan

The 20-year Air Force vet’s startup analyzes satellite images in real time for smarter disaster response.

Science Pioneers
Thomas Ashman, David Godwin
 Photo Credit: Courtesy subject

When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan