8 Creepy Spy Technologies That Can Be Hitched to Your Neighborhood Drones
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Right now the sensor can "see" metal objects from a few feet away and the department is trying to expand its reach to 82, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, in an interview in the New York Times.
Ryan Calo told AlterNet, "Why not have drones fly around looking for guns then?"
3. Biometrics: Advances in facial recognition, iris scans and other identifying biometric markers are speeding along, with both police departments and federal agencies juicing up the biometrics industry by offering a welcoming market for its wares. This includes the MORIS device, spreading through police departments all over the country, which lets police capture iris scans and run image algorithms that can recognize a person from the geometry of his or her face. Biometrics like facial recognition (and eventually iris scans) are a natural fit for aerial vehicles, as camera zoom and image quality continue to improve. Meanwhile, government databases are collecting more biometric information from more people, making the technology increasingly useful as an identification and tracking tool. The logical outcome: a zoom lens on a drone could zero in and snap a picture that can be scanned and run through a number of databases, including ones kept by DHS, DOJ and DoD, without anyone being the wiser.
4. Video analytics: The video analytics industry seeks to develop systems that can analyze and interpret data. So instead of a stream of raw footage, the camera itself can perform searches for people and objects of interest. One example is LPR readers that can read license plates and run them against a database, helping match identity and track location. Those are already in use all over the world, and more sophisticated forms of video analytics have also started to creep into metro areas. Chicago, which bears the honor of being called the most surveilled city in America by Michael Chertoff, has cameras that can track specific people or cars as they move around the city, according to the ACLU of Illinois (PDF).
Private companies, government agencies and academic institutions are working to improve cameras that can hone in on specific objects or people, figure out location, or pick people out of a crowd.
DARPA, the military's science lab, has one of the more ambitious projects in play, as Wired's Danger Room reported last year. The "Mind's Eye" project would power cameras with artificial intelligence that lets them decide what to monitor -- visual intelligence that lets them pick out "operationally significant activity and report on that activity so warfighters can focus on important events in a timely manner."
5. Sense-through-the-wall (STTW) technology: For about a decade various branches of the military have been working to create sensors that can penetrate walls. DARPA's Visibuilding project is working on "surveillance capabilities to detect personnel within buildings, to determine building layouts, and to locate weapons caches and shielded enclosures within buildings," according to the DARPA site. The US Army's research arm ( CERDEC) has also developed technology that can sense behind walls.
The appeal of STTW technology in urban warfare is clear, and offers obvious temptations to domestic law enforcement as well; an NIJ (research arm of DOJ) report from 2008 laments the fact that some of the best stuff is still too expensive for many domestic agencies, like the $20,000 RadarVision2, which can sense people 30 feet into a room (in this case, the Fourth Amendment against search and seizure would likely come into play).
6. ARGUS-IS, the 100-eyed giant: The military's ARGUS-IS (Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System) endows the A-160 Hummingbird, one of the military's newest, fanciest drones, with the power to stake out 36 miles of land from one spot. The sensors can absorb 80 years worth of footage in a single day, using 65 video screens capable of tracking different locations, according to Wired. According to DARPA's site, "Each video window is electronically steerable independent of the others, and can either provide continuous imagery of a fixed area on the ground or be designated to automatically keep a specified target (dismount or vehicle) in the window." ARGUS-IR adds infrared vision to the setup.