The 1.8 billion pixel ARGUS-IS surveillance camera, otherwise known as the Area Persistent Stare, has been developed by BAE Systems as part of a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Using 368 five megapixel cell phone cameras, the system can be fitted to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and is eventually planned to be incorporated into the developmental solar eagle drone that will be able to stay airborne for years at a time.
The clip above features the creator of ARGUS, BAE Systems’ Yiannis Antoniades, describing how the system is equivalent to, “having up to 100 predators look at an area the size of a medium sized city at once,” and how it can track every moving object across an area of 15 square miles, right down to people walking down the street and even birds flying in the sky and objects as small as six inches on the ground.
“Everything that is a moving object is being automatically tracked… You can see individuals crossing the street. You can see individuals walking in parking lots. There’s actually enough resolution to be able to see people waving their arms or what kind of clothes they wear,” said Antoniades.
The system can store one million terabytes of video per day, 5,000 hours of HD footage, while broadcasting live streaming footage to a ground station. ARGUS can “zoom in and see tremendous detail.”
Details of the project, which was initiated in 2007, have only recently been released thanks to a government gag order being lifted, but the sensor itself is still classified and cannot be shown on camera.
Antoniades refused to discuss whether the system had been deployed in the field but stated, “I’m not at liberty to discuss plans of the government, but if we had our choice, we would like ARGUS to be over the same area 24 hours day, 7 days a week,” adding that drones would be a “perfect platform” for the sensor.
“We’re moving towards an increasingly electronic society where our movements are going to be tracked,” said Mary Cummings of the MIT Humans and Automation Lab.
Experts predict that there will be 30,000 surveillance drones in American skies by 2020 following a bill passed last year by Congress that permits the use of unmanned aerial spy vehicles on domestic soil.
“Now, consider this technology in the context of extra-judicial drone strikes initiated by artificial intelligence assessment parameters that automatically determine if you are a threat or not, and you can see how dangerous drones armed with these imaging systems will become,” writes Max Slavo.