The Air Force has touted the ARGUS-IS as the next generation for sensor technology. This sensor so advanced it has Air Force leaders worried that their intelligence analysts don’t have the tools to consume and utilize all the data it consumes.

Air Force officials have reached out to sports broadcast companies and reality television producers to figure out how to work with so many data feeds.

Video after the jump.

The ARGUS-IS can stream up to a million terabytes of data and record 5,000 hours of HD footage per day. It can do this by the 1.8 gigapixel camera and 368 different sensors all housed in the ARGUS-IS.

Air Force intelligence aircraft, drones and manned planes, carry the sensor up to 20,000 feet up and can spot specific features of individuals down to the color of their clothes.


About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • luke

    When will Google maps be getting this? ;-)

    • Bill

      With the bandwidth needed to stream that much data, it makes me think this is why that mandatory switch to digital cable happened a few years back. Pure conjecture of course, thought just came to me.

  • MCQknight

    This would enable a commander to keep tabs on an entire battlefield area in real time. Almost like the Total War games by SEGA.

    • MCQknight

      Speaking off…I think they should be asking video game designers how to process all that info as well. Specifically those that make massive RTS games (like Total War)

    • blight_

      Supreme Commander FTW!

  • stephen russell

    Need this for Self Drive Cars IE convert into maps alone.
    Radical for tourist promos of area X.
    Leery for invasion of privacy abuse.
    Or great to track felons from above.
    (tweek program some)

    Great plus Implications.

  • Stan

    This is from the Department of Too Much Information. They will need software and supercomputers to process all this data, probably artificial intelligence. I can’t imagine this being useful otherwise. Enter Watson (actually it would be perfectly useless in this instance since the info is visual, not textual or speechual).

    • blight_

      Watson’s NLP capability would be useful combined with some data mining systems.

      For instance

      “Watson, I am tracking a 2001 Ford Explorer, black, last seen on 5th and 12th streets ten minutes ago”.

      Watson will load object type vehicle, attributes (Ford Explorer, SUV, black) and start from a location (5th and 12th, with some margin of error) and timestamp (10 mins, plus or minus).

      I imagine Watson’s NLP end is customized to a variety of queries. It did language queries on Jeopardy, but it can probably talk to image recognition and location databases if required. Heck, it will be capable of sifting through medical literature and case studies within a hospital’s electronic health records to detect epidemics or identify optimal care strategies. But that’s another topic.

  • Tad

    I think Stan nailed it, too much info.

    The thought that crosses my mind is that meaningful information from people, spies let’s say, is probably way more useful than much of these imagery data. Perhaps this stuff should be filed away and ignored until “spy” information suggests that one should look at imagery or other electronic data from a certain area.

  • 10th

    For some reason, I predict these over U.S. cities…

    • orly?

      Terrorists live among us. Right?

      • Vaporhead

        The Government views any sort of activist an enemy of the state. This stuff most certainly will be used for spying on Americans. No doubt about it. It will be used even without a warrant under the Patriot Act.

      • crackedlenses

        Forget terrorists. Governments have a bad habit of coming after those whom they believe are a threat to themselves. Power corrupts……

    • blight_

      Time for umbrellas against the Big Government State.

      How will John Galt escape to Galt’s Gulch?

  • johnvarry

    The scary part is that if they are releasing data on this system that means they have something better in service or coming into service very soon.

  • Dave M

    Could this be used for forensics? Say there’s a bomb that goes off somewhere, just track the person that planted it/set it off back in time to where he came from. Then you can track the people that went into the same building as him back to where they came from, and so on. Basically, by using rewind you could completely root out every member of a terrorist cell.

    • blight_

      London already has surveillance cameras for this. You’re better off with tons of cameras on the ground that can look into people’s faces and tell you what they wore, versus trying to guess who’s who from above.

      • Dave M

        That’s fine for places like London and NYC. But for most places a couple eyes in the sky would be way more practical.

    • Brandon

      Yea over areas like Kabul or urban areas where your looking for a needle in a haystack, this would make that possible. Typical sources miss it if they aren’t looking right at it. I didn’t even think of it until you mentioned it. The extra detail is a huge plus and then to be able to see where the cell came from, split off to and regrouped at and split off to again would be INCREDIBLY helpful for targeting. I’m not even a dedicated intel guy and thinking of that is really exciting. The detail is such that you could probably identify the supplier/bomb maker, leader, and look outs by their body language and activities alone prior to hitting targets.

  • 4FingersOfBourbon

    Eagle EYE

  • Jayson

    Fox has tech adding red colour for shoot, blue colour for pass that isn’t being used. Perhaps the military can implement it in with this in case they spy on a hockey game or such.

  • tom smith

    Skynet just got another tool to burn us all with.

  • Dee

    Loose lips sink ships people! For crying out loud zip your lip unless it’s to take a nice big sip from the Shut The Hell Up Cup.

    I mean to say “We, as a nation, can and should better serve our national security interests and not make our capabilities a viral sensation on the Internet.”

    Thank you.

    • Nobody

      If DefenseTech is reporting this then it’s old news. No worries on OPSEC and all that.

      We’ve got bigger, deeper, darker secrets that get tapped by foriegn countries every single day, anyways. If secrets are in digital form, they’re not secrets. Putting something into digital form is just about as good as telling your life long best friend who happens to be willing to talk for the right price.

      The only way, that I know of, to truly keep something secret is to keep it off the grid. Completely. Or at least run airgaps…

      • Anon

        Old news as in it’s obviously nothing that’s going to hurt national security or surprise anyone that this got “leaked.”

    • Menzie

      What are you from 1941? Just thawed you? If it is being reported around the US Media this is not top tech anymore. Legal liabilities and nat sec would have prevented them from printing it if it was the current cats ass. Anyways who cares if anyone knows we can see the pimple on their ass. They already knew from espionage. Dont be so naive please.
      Thank you.

      • dee

        You lost me at the opening trolling attitude General Jackeet

    • blight_

      OPSEC on relevant capabilities still alive and kicking.

      Didn’t see anybody wikileaking on stealth helicopter now did you? Even with a piece of tail on TV intact.

  • Vaporhead

    A MILLION TERABYTES of info a day from one friggin camera? HOLY COW! Feel bad for the poor sap who gotta back all that info up on DVD’s. ;)

    • AnonTech

      They’ll probably use a cloud type system instead of actual physical memory space. My home computer has 8TB’s of space on it. SSD’s. No matter what I try to do to bog it down it’s instantaneous data. I can transfer one SSD to the other in less than a minute.

      And I just use mediocre tech. I spent a little more than the cheap stuff, but it’s well worth it. I’m sure Uncle Sam could put me to shame a thousand times over, just for kicks.

      We’re also assuming they’re using the same kind of computer tech we are and not something out of Star Trek that’ll be revealed to us through DT in the next 5yrs. Lol.

      • Menzie

        It all costs money. So 1tb is say $50 bucks relatively cheap…so you want them to spend an extra $50million per day to store 1 camera worth of data. Ummmm……okay…….we dont have the money. Or should we print more …..or make a platinum coin worth $15 billion just for one camera per year? Ya know if I swore Id swear at you and call you a moron but I don’t so I won’t.

      • blight_

        Considering high performance computing users are using petabyte storage…and this is with sufficient RAID in case of a bad day.

        God knows how much storage the Internet Wayback Machine or Google require.

        Bear in mind it says “stream” a million terabytes of data per day. They will really need a means to process every frame, determine value and store it to disk or to dump it from RAM.

        There’s also tape drive if required.

        Something like this would be interesting to put over a city and track a perp. You wouldn’t even need a terabyte to pick out one car and follow it around a la Enemy Of The State.

    • Menzie

      Yeah we need a new way of storing/compressing said data or we will fill up mountains with servers full of data yet to be sorted through very easily.

  • Nick

    You guys are really thinking like kids. Those cameras will sometime be tracking your movements, who knows you are not a terrorist? The next article says it right: Back to the future, back to ‘1984’.

    • Menzie

      IF that EVER happened it would take a generation not “the next artice”. We are dumb but are big on our rights. IT would have to be a slow eroding of our rights until they could just unilaterally do this everywhere. Oh wait….

  • LauraB

    Considering this piece on the somewhat grey ethics at DARPA, this sort of thing always sets my teeth on edge…as usual, if it is released, it is old news. Still, who received that data earlier still?

    The lack of ethics in the current and prior generation is what shall bring it all down. Ethics and honor are the only leashes on absolute power.

  • LauraB

    Apologies - link fail. http://fcw.com/Articles/2013/01/25/darpa-ethics-p…

  • Gozer

    Awesome, cannot wait for it to start tracking “terrorists” in the USA. We’ll be able to catch anyone doing any “crime” ever! YA!

    • Brandon

      I would bet solid gold that this is way too expensive to be used by any federal law enforcement agency at this time. Even then, too expensive to use on average daily operations. The approval alone would be a headache. The FAA is already having fits and placing restrictions on UAV use due to both safety and privacy guidelines and those don’t even have the argus capabilities. Some states have even outlawed UAV use while I disagree with it to an extent because Helicopters with cameras are any better? Maybe if they had this during the ATF’s fast and furious, all those guns could have been tracked a little better. Even major cities don’t have the money for a decent UAV not to mention the additional money for Argus. Even then, it hasn’t got enough detail to show faces YET and therefore would probably never be admissible in court to prove your guilt. It would only say you were somehow connected to a crime if someone on the ground could prove that was you they were tracking to begin with. IF this becomes a concern, I think it will be at least another 20 years away. Hopefully by then we will see America continuing to be more conservative and we will a reduction in government and all of the laws that we have now.

  • Kole

    Can that thing pour coffee?

  • richard crews

    will they be ab;e to issue speeding tickets after the fact/ see the speeder after analysis, or processing, then follow speeder home (from above0 to identify. mail them a ticket.
    find pot plants with spectral analysis.
    nude sunbathing!

  • raghavendrabsrg

    Oh man! This is awesome! The future will be more technologically advanced than in any science fiction movies! This is a very good achievement in the fields of image processing and Electronic design!! :)

  • Ems

    it’s just 400 COTS cellphone camera sensors housed in one unit. Imagine how many the Chinese could afford to put…the real high tech will be in making this data useful as others have pointed out

  • Brandon

    If it is only cell phone cameras grouped into one, I wonder if they use the newest Iphone camera that can shoot 12 megapixels and has almost twice the capabilities of other smartphone cameras to improve clarity and color. If not, Argus just got some more resolution.

  • SFP

    The thought that crosses my mind is that meaningful information from people, spies let’s say, is probably way more useful than much of these imagery data. Perhaps this stuff should be filed away and ignored until “spy” information suggests that one should look at imagery or other electronic data from a certain area.

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