DARPA shows off 1.8-gigapixel surveillance drone, can spot a terrorist from 20,000 feet

Autore: ExtremeTech

DARPA and the US Army have taken the wraps off ARGUS-IS, a 1.8-gigapixel video surveillance platform that can resolve details as small as six inches from an altitude of 20,000 feet (6km). ARGUS is by far the highest-resolution surveillance platform in the world, and probably the highest-resolution camera in the world, period.

ARGUS, which would be attached to some kind of unmanned UAV (such as the Predator) and flown at an altitude of around 20,000 feet, can observe an area of 25 square kilometers (10sqmi) at any one time. If ARGUS was hovering over New York City, it could observe half of Manhattan. Two ARGUS-equipped drones, and the US could keep an eye on the entirety of Manhattan, 24/7.

It is the definition of “observe” in this case that will blow your mind, though. With an imaging unit that totals 1.8 billion pixels, ARGUS captures video (12 fps) that is detailed enough to pick out birds flying through the sky, or a lost toddler wandering around. These 1.8 gigapixels are provided via 368 smaller sensors, which DARPA/BAE says are just 5-megapixel smartphone camera sensors. These 368 sensors are focused on the ground via four image-stabilized telescopic lenses.

The end result, as you can see in the (awesome) video above, is a mosaic that can be arbitrarily zoomed. In the video, a BAE engineer zooms in from 17,500 feet to show a man standing in a parking lot doing some exercises. A white speck is a bird flying around. You can’t quite make out facial features or license plates (phew), but I wonder if that would be possible if ARGUS was used at a lower altitude (during a riot, say).

ARGUS’s insane resolution is only half of the story, though. It isn’t all that hard to strap a bunch of sensors together, after all. The hard bit, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is the processing of all that image data. 1.8 billion pixels, at 12 fps, generates on the order of 600 gigabits per second. This equates to around 6 petabytes — or 6,000 terabytes — of video data per day. From what we can gather, some of the processing is done within ARGUS (or the drone that carries it), but most of the processing is done on the ground, in near-real-time, using a beefy supercomputer. We’re not entirely sure how such massive amounts of data are transmitted wirelessly, unless DARPA is waiting for its 100Gbps wireless tech to come to fruition.

The software, called Persistics after the concept of persistent ISR — intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance — is tasked with identifying objects on the ground, and then tracking them indefinitely. As you can see in the video, Persistics draws a colored box around humans, cars, and other objects of interest. These objects are then tracked by the software — and as you can imagine, tracking thousands of moving objects across a 10-square-mile zone is a fairly intensive task. The end user can view up to 65 tracking windows at one time.

ARGUS-IS, surveying Quantico, Virginia

ARGUS-IS, surveying Quantico, Virginia. Click to see a much larger version.

According to the video, which is from the PBS Nova TV show, the ARGUS system in its entirety produces one million terabytes per day — all of which is stored by the Army for future use. We’re a bit skeptical about PBS’s crazy figure (a million terabytes is an exabyte), but in theory most of that data is actually meta data — the coordinates and other identifying features of the thousands (millions?) of objects being tracked by ARGUS.

Boeing A160 Hummingbird helicopter, with ARGUS-IS attached belowThe original goal was to deploy ARGUS in Afghanistan, but that never came to pass. It isn’t entirely clear what ARGUS’s future is; it was meant to be mounted on Boeing’s high-altitude A160 Hummingbird helicopter (pictured right), but the chopper has since been scrapped. If ARGUS is to be deployed, it will most likely be strapped to the underbelly of a Predator drone. Where it will be used, however, with the war in Afghanistan apparently winding down, is another question entirely. Its efficacy in a military setting would be unsurpassed, but it’s easy to imagine how ARGUS could be used here at home in the US, too.

Now read: Stop worrying, and embrace RFID

For the lore nerds out there: Argos was a 100-eyed giant from Greek mythology. His role was to act as Io’s guardian — a good, if typecast role, for someone with 100 eyes.

8 thoughts on “DARPA shows off 1.8-gigapixel surveillance drone, can spot a terrorist from 20,000 feet

  1. precedentemente avevo fatto una domannda simile , ma ora voglio sapere la trama completa + i vostri commenti sul gioco
    Grazie in anticipo

  2. grazie 10 punti…
    possibilmente italiane cn nome del cantante e della canzone…
    possibilmente italiane cn nome del cantante e della canzone…

  3. Cerco di riepilogare.

    Nel condominio dove abita la mia donna c’è qualche b@st.rdo che ha rigato praticamente tutte le auto, la mia due volte.

    Quello che chiedevo, la marca e modello di qualche webcam che funzioni con buona risoluzione anche in condizioni di poca luce, naturalmente sfruttando l’illuminazione esterna, senza led.

    Poi, se non chiedo troppo, visto che la webcam la dovrei usare per molte ore, specialmente in orari notturni, volevo sapere se c’è qualche software che si “accorge” di eventuali movimenti, così da attivarla e disattivarla all’abbisogna.


  4. 1. CPU*[Cod. INI281] INTEL – CORE i7 2600K 3.4Ghz Sandy Bridge Socket 1155 BOXED€ 258,00
    2. Dissipatore[Cod. BEQ003] Be QUIET! – Dark Rock Advanced x socket 1155 1156 1366 775 AM3€ 46,50
    3. Scheda madre*P8H67-M PRO 91€
    4. Memoria*[Cod. CRS125] CORSAIR – 16GB Kit Vengeance Low Profile DDR3-1600 1.5v CL9 (4x4GB)€ 109,00
    5. Memoria (2° banco)(Non definito)
    6. Hard disk*[Cod. SEA128] SEAGATE – 1TB SV35 SURVEILLANCE 64MB – SATA€ 59,50
    7. 2° Hard disk(Non definito)
    8. Unità ottica*[Cod. LGE305] LG – BH10LS30 BLU-RAY 10X LightScribe Retail€ 72,00
    9. 2° Unità ottica(Non definito)
    10. Scheda video*[Cod. SAP320] SAPPHIRE – HD6950 2GB GDDR5 Dual Fan PCI-E€ 199,00
    11. TV Tuner(Non definito)
    12. Scheda audio(Non definito)
    13. Case*[Cod. AER018] AEROCOOL – CYBORG X (no ali)€ 65,75
    14. Alimentatore*[Cod. ENE239] ENERMAX – REVOLUTION 1250W Modulare 80Plus Silver€ 220,00
    15. Sistema operativo(Non definito)
    Richiedi assemblaggio € 29,00
    Totale configurazione: € 1.107,75
    Il nostro personale tecnico effettuerà una verifica della configurazione
    prima dell’approvazione dell’ordine.

    TOTALE PARZIALE € 1.107,75
    IVA (21%) €237,67
    TOTALE GENERALE € 1.345,00

  5. Devo tradurre queste domande riguardo un brano…me le traducete perfavore!!!!!!
    1)Cerca di fare pubblicità a se stesso indossando una maglietta con su scritto “Dennis Woodruff, world-famous actor”, viaggia con una macchina “pazza” con su 5 premi oscar falsi e vende i suoi video a 10 dollari.
    2)Fa le audizioni davanti alla videocamera di sorveglianza di un ristorante.La gente lo guarda e lui la ignora.
    3)Perché sono 25 anni che cerca lavoro ma nessun regista lo prende.
    4)Scrive a lettere cubitali il suo nome sulla cappotta della sua macchina.
    Mi sono dimenticata di dire ke devo tradurle in inglese =)

  6. ho trovato questi video su you tube: (date solo un’occhiata veloce, tanto per avere un’idea)

    non ricordo nessuna di queste scene in nessuna puntata della serie… allora cosa sono? Scene tagliate o cosa?
    E non ci sarebbe una versione di questi video in italiano o magari con i sottotitoli?

  7. ciao,
    ho installato una web cam che avevo da tempo,avendo trovato il cd di installazione ho seguito tutto alla regola,adesso vorrei sapere se funziona come posso provarla?.grazie

  8. mi sapreste indicare varie classifiche in cui sono rappresentati i migliori:
    Scheda madre
    Memoria RAM
    Hard Disk
    Unità ottica
    Scheda video
    Scheda audio

    una classifica per ogni componente in cui sono rappresentati almeno 50 elementi.

    mi sapreste indicare se questi componenti sono “buoni”?
    CPU ———————-> INTEL-CORE i7 2600k 3.4Ghz Sandy Bridge Socket 1155 BOXED
    Dissipatore ————> SCYTHE – Yasya x Sochet
    Memoria RAM ——-> CORSAIR – 16GB Kit Vangeance DDR3-1600 1.5v CL9
    Hard disk ———— SAEGATE – 1TB SV35 SURVEILLANCE 32MB – SATA
    Unità ottica————> ASUS – 24B3LT 24x Lightscribe SATA nero Bulk
    Scheda video———-> EVGA – GeForce GTX560Ti DS SC PCI-E
    Scheda audio———-> ASUS -XONAR D1 7.1 PCI AUDIO CARD
    alimentatore————> COOLER MASTER – GX 750W 80Plus

    nella classifica non chiedo che siano presenti per forza i componenti che vi ho elencato :)
    grazie a tutti quelli che risponderanno! buona giornata

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