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DHS Testing 'Mega-Cameras' Mounted on Blimps for Border Surveillance


“We could keep an eye on one area while dispatching agents to other areas.”

The Department of Homeland Security may start policing its own borders with technology that first found itself on the battlefield.

According to Wired, DHS recently conducted tests using "mega-cameras" -- a wide-area surveillance system called Kestrel by Logos Technologies that can view several miles in a single frame -- mounted on blimps. This technology was previously used in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is exactly what interested officials in using it for the country's own internal protection. Wired has more:

“You had this imager flying that was able to archive and save imagery and reconstruct [bomb] emplacement so troops could go after [insurgents] later,” John Applebee, who manages the border camera program for DHS, tells Danger Room. “It also was used for other things every day, like troop protection or perimeter protection, just as we imagine its uses along the continental borders of the United States.”

According to sUAS News, in its first day of testing, the system helped nab 30 suspects of illegal entry or activity and rounded out the week at helping with more than 80 arrests:

“The coverage was amazing. We were able to see activities happening in different parts of the city all at the same time,” said a senior DHS official. “We could keep an eye on one area while dispatching agents to other areas.”

sUAS News describes more of the technologies uses:

In addition to providing actionable, real-time information, the Kestrel team also demonstrated the significance of the system’s forensic capability.

While identifying illicit activities in real time, the Kestrel system could also rewind through its stored imagery, allowing operators to track the suspects back to their hideouts and monitor other illegal activities.

Wired reports that the system isn't quite perfect for DHS use yet, as the department might not have the capacity yet to handle the wealth of data it continuously provides. Applebee said he hopes the system can be automated to alert the appropriate authorities when movement is seen in an area where it shouldn't be.

Earlier this year, we reported that there was some concern over use of wide-area surveillance on U.S. soil as it still monitors, at a pervasive level, areas where citizens go about their daily business and are not committing crimes.

Note: Blaze reader John S. has pointed out an important distinction between a aerostat and a blimp. While the Raven Aerostar aerostat may bear many similarities to a blimp, it is in fact not a blimp. Aerostats are tethered whereas blimps are often untethered and have a motor of their own. 

[H/T Gizmodo]

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