Pentagon seeks bids for 3D-surveillance system

DARPA are seeking bids for a high resolution three-dimensional battlefield surveillance system. The so-called Fine Detail Optical Surveillance (FDOS) program is looking to develop “a fundamentally new optical ISR capability that can provide ultra high-resolution 3D images for rapid, in-field identification of a diverse set of targets… for use in an active battlefield or hostile environments with designs tailored to allow for soldier portable applications as well as UAV integration.”

As Wired maagazine points out, the Pentagon are already deep into a virtual 3D surveillance scheme, the evily-named Gorgon Stare, that involves 12 cameras attached to Reaper drones, and DARPA already have another development programme called Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Imaging System (ARGUS-IS), which involves “a 1.8 Gigapixels video sensor”. There’s more details here.

Artist's Impression of the ARGUS system (Wired)

There’s no getting away from it: semi-autonomous robots and unmanned aerial vehicles are the new silver bullet for both military and civil uses, both in surveillance and warfighting itself. It’s about time more researchers and activitists paid this some greater attention…

New UAVs in Afghanistan

The USAF continues to use the Afghanistan / Pakistan conflict as a test bed for new military surveillance technologies and robotic weapons. The latest thing is apparently the RQ-170, codenamed Sentinel, which is a radar-evading UAV or drone aircraft.

This picture of the aircraft was apparently shot near Kandahar…

The Sentinel (source unknown)

It seems that as this conflict drags on, more and more of these things will get wheeled out. Its only purpose seems to have become to field test all these black-project developed technologies that the US security-industrial complex has been churning out. It wasn’t that long after the Predator drone emerged that we saw a weaponized version. It is unclear whether there is any such version of the Sentinel yet, but no doubt there will be soon enough. The increasing reliance on remote-controlled and robotic weapons seems to be a new article of faith amongst the world’s wealthier militaries.

US Predator drones in Pakistan

Although the US military has been operated its Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (both surveillance and weaponized versions) in both Pakistan and Afghanistan for some time now, the Pakistan government is now for the first time reported to be accepting their use as an official part of its own military’s operations in the South Waziristan region. This is the area where it has long been known that some of the most important Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups have been ‘hiding’  – but hiding in pretty much plain sight. More on military drones here and here.

USA builds massive new space surveillance system

My headline is a slightly more accurate version of the way that news of the new ‘Space Fence’ system has been headlined, for example here in Computerworld. The Space Fence system, whose first stage is a $30 Million US project for Northrop-Grumman, will replace a 1961 VHF radio infrastructure known as the Air Force Space Surveillance System built in 1961.

Although the spin is that the system is all about tracking space debris, this is actually part of the DoD’s satellite tracking operations – which certainly does cover debris, insofar as they are a threat to US satellites, but is also crucially to make sure that an accurate picture of the increasing number of smaller ‘micro-satellites’ from an every-expanding number of countries can be obtained. In that sense, this program is indeed a ‘fence’, a further attempt to enforce the notion that space is effectively US territory.