The ARGUS-IS can view an area of 15 sq/miles in a single image
Its zoom capability can detect an object as small as 6in on the ground
Developed by BAE as part of a $18million DARPA project
System works by stringing together 368 digital camera chips
A sinister airborne surveillance camera gives the U.S. military the ability to track movements in an entire city like a real-time Google Street View.
The ARGUS-IS array can be mounted on unmanned drones to capture an area of 15 sq/miles in an incredible 1,800MP – that’s 225 times more sensitive than an iPhone camera.
From 17,500ft the remarkable surveillance system can capture objects as small as 6in on the ground and allows commanders to track movements across an entire battlefield in real time.
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Beat that, Google: An image taken from 17,500ft by the U.S. military’s ARGUS-IS array, which can capture 1,800MP zoomable video feeds of an entire medium-sized city in real time
‘It is important for the public to know that some of these capabilities exist,’ said Yiannis Antoniades, the BAE engineer who designed the system, in a recent PBS broadcast.
The aerospace and weapons company developed the ARGUS-IS array as part of a $18.5million project funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).
In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, was a primordial giant whose epithet, ‘Panoptes’, ‘all-seeing’, led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes.
Like the Titan of myth, the Pentagon’s ARGUS-IS (a backronym standing for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System) works by stringing together an array of 368 digital camera imaging chips.
An airborne processor combines the video from these chips to create a single ultra-high definition mosaic video image which updates at up to 15 frames a second.
All-seeing: This graphic illustrates how the U.S. military’s ARGUS-IS array links together images streamed from hundreds of digital camera sensors to watch over a huge expanse of terrain in real time
What it looks like: The ARGUS-IS (a backronym standing for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System) strings together an array of 368 digital camera imaging chips into a single unit
That tremendous level of detail makes it sensitive enough to not only track people moving around on the ground thousands of feet below, but even to see what they are doing or carrying.
The ARGUS array sends its live feed to the ground where it connects to a touch-screen command room interface.
Using this, operators can zoom in to any area within the camera’s field of view, with up to 65 zoom windows open at once.
Each video window is electronically steerable independent of the others, and can either provide continuous imagery of a fixed area on the ground or be designated to automatically keep a specified target in the window.
Sinister: The system tracks all moving objects in its field of view, highlighting them with coloured boxes, allowing operators to track movements across an area as and when they happen
The system automatically tracks any moving object it can see, including both vehicles and individuals on foot, highlighting them with coloured boxes so they can be easily identified.
It also records everything, storing an approximate million terabytes of data a day – the equivalent of 5,000 hours of high-definition video footage.
‘So you can go back and say I’d like to see what happened at this particular location three days, two hours [and] four minutes ago, and it will actually show you what happened as if you were watching it live,’ said Mr Antoniades.
iPad next? The feed from the ARGUS is transmitted to a touch-screen command and control interface
Windows: Operators can open a window to zoom in to any area within the camera’s field of view, with up to 65 open and running at once
Total surveillance: The view of Quantico, Virginia, highlighted in the PBS film
For the PBS programme reporting the technology, Mr Antoniades showed reporters a feed over the city of Quantico, Virginia, that was recorded in 2009.
By Damien Gayle
PUBLISHED: 14:56 GMT, 28 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:56 GMT, 28 January 2013
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