Have you heard of drones? Chances are, you have: They’ve gotten a lot of play in the media recently due to America’s use of them in the Middle East. Drones are sophisticated, remote controlled machines that can be equipped with missiles, or simply, with a very powerful camera.
British company BAE systems and the U.S. Defense Department have developed a drone armed with a high-resolution camera that can record 1.8 billion pixels—in real time.
The Defense Department recently allowed PBS to take a sneak peak at the drone for the NOVA episode, “Rise of the Drones.” The drone is named Argus, which is an acronym for Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System. Argus, not coincidentally, is also the name of a character in Greek mythology that was described as “all-seeing” or having one hundred eyes.
The name fits: Argus can record 1 million terabytes of data a day, from heights as far as 20,000 feet up. This covers an estimated 15 square miles. In the episode, engineer Yiannis Antoniades plays with a screen displaying a city that Argus is surveying. Argus allows him to zoom in exceptionally close to the city from 17,500 feet up. So close in fact, he can clearly observe someone waving their hand from the middle of a street. This god-like zoom comes from Argus’ ability to meld together video from each of its 368 chips.
“The U.S. Air Force right now has the ability to archive every single video that comes off every single UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle),” said Mary Cummings, from the MIT Humans and Automation Lab. “We’re moving to an increasingly electronic society where our movements are going to be tracked.”
As of now, Antoniades could not disclose whether or not Argus is already in use. — Jason Hahn
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