February 5, 2013
In Greek mythology there was a giant monster with 100 eyes all over his body named Argos Panoptes. Incredibly, according to the myth, he was a watchman that never slept and guarded Zeus’ lover who had been changed into a white heifer. Although this story is not real, it does serve as a backdrop to a new DARPA funded project.
Yiannis Antoniades of BAE Systems has developed for the Pentagon a highly classified 1.8 billion megapixel camera that can be mounted on drones. Its name is ARGUS-IS, which is an acronym for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System. Like its mythological counterpart from whom it was named after, this camera is like a watchman that never sleeps.
The ARGUS-IS, depending on what type of UAV it’s attached to, will be able to be in the sky for nearly 24 hours at about 17,500 feet. The camera will also be able to cover 15 mi.² per pixel but BAE Systems indicate coverage of 100 mi.². Built within this system is 1,000,000 TB hard-drive that records everything in high-resolution. This allows the drone to feed live video back to its command station with the ability to zoom in on any area they please.
Another feature of the ARGUS-IS is the capability to open 65 independent video windows that can zoom in and out on a specific image by the touch of a finger. It can track automatically vehicles and an equally terrifying feature is the “dismount tracking” which can follow individuals on foot. The processing and cognitive swarm-recognition software will also allow the drone to identify the target before it becomes a threat. DARPA is already developing this technology to detect the prelaunch of rocket propelled grenades.
This system sounds very similar to the AISight software by BRS Labs that scans the public for “suspicious” behavior in pre-crime detection. It also has the ability to learn while observing large crowds of people and send text messages to guards if threats are spotted. The reader should note that these technologies are not being beta tested over foreign skies; rather they are in our skies and on our streets.
Let’s just put the pieces together. The proliferation of drones to kill enemy combatants in foreign countries years ago was nearly looked upon as a conspiracy theory. Now during the Obama administration it is a fact and a preferred method of war. It is also a reality that although the UAV’s are effective in killing specified targets, they are also notorious for terminating innocent children. Just last year Pres. Obama signed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012, which allows within 90 days of its signing, the permission for police departments across America to utilize drones on a daily basis. It also mandates that the FAA reevaluate its regulations by September 30, 2015 to allow private companies to also fly UAV’s. The FAA also estimates due to the bill HR 658, that by 2020 there will be 30,000 drones in the skies of the United States.
I mentioned all the above to say that this is the natural progression of an oppressive regime. They take advantage of a crisis to gain more power and to secure its future. Then it turns on the people that gave the system its supremacy by incrementally locking down their freedoms. Simultaneously they implement secretive plans while denying its existence, only later to confirm the rumors. As the public becomes acclimated, the regime openly unveils what it has been doing in the shadows for years. Then the system is given the green light to promote the idea of using the once secretive program within its own territory to secure its people’s safety. Insiders then begin creating the legal parameters the regime needs to roll out the final plan. Once the citizenry has been surrounded by a wall of legislation then the system will have gained full control of its population.
My point in painting that picture was to show the reader that this technology from the beginning was going to be used to create a Big Brother surveillance grid here in the United States. I wrote earlier that drones could zero in on specific enemies but more often than not there is collateral damage. Now when we apply it to US soil, employ predator drones, equip them with high-tech cameras that have pre-crime software, authorize its use for law enforcement, legalize its existence with legislation while expanding the definition of what a terrorist is, one can easily see how America could become a battlefield in the near future.
If ARGUS-IS lives up to its mythological namesake, we very well could be dealing with a real life monster that never sleeps and always sees. The good news is if real life follows closely to the myth, the monster is destroyed (although I wouldn’t hold my breath on this point).