Thursday, February 12, 2009

Special Forces' Gigapixel Flying Spy Sees All

By David Hambling February 12, 2009

You may think your new ten-megapixel camera is pretty hot –- but not when you compare it to the 1.8 Gigapixel beast built for the Pentagon. The camera is designed as a payload for the A-160T Hummingbird robot helicopter now being quietly delivered to Special Forces. It will give them an unprecedented ability to track everything on the ground in real time. The camera is scheduled for flight testing at the start of next year.

Developed under the auspices of Darpa, the camera is the sensor part of Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance - Imaging System or ARGUS-IS. The camera is composed of four arrays, each containing 92 five-megapixel imagers. The other parts of ARGUS are the airborne processing system, which has to deal with a phenomenal torrent of data, and the ground-based element. The airborne part fits into a 500-pound pod.

The Hummingbird is unique in its ability to hover at high altitude (over 15,000 feet) and its endurance of over 20 hours. This means it can park high in the sky and scan a wide area. Robo-chopper camera-maker BAE Systems says that its imager will be able to cover an area of over a hundred square miles. The refresh rate is fifteen frames per second and a "ground sample distance" of 15 centimeters –- this means that each pixel represents six inches on the ground. (The Darpa diagram, above, suggests a smaller area of coverage, 40 square kilometers or 15 square miles, at that resolution.)

The volume of data is too great to be completely transmitted, but users will be able to define at least sixty-five independent video windows within the image and zoom in or out at will. The windows can be set to automatically track items of interest such as moving vehicles. In fact, the resolution is good enough for it to offer "dismount tracking" or following individual people on foot.

In addition to the windows, ARGUS will provide "a real-time moving target indicator for vehicles throughout the entire field of view in real-time." Basically, nothing can move in the entire area without being spotted. Unlike radar, ARGUS can zoom in and provide a high-resolution image.

The camera is pretty impressive, but it's the processing and the software behind it that will make this such a capable system. It would take a human a very long time to scan the whole area under surveillance if they were looking for something – but this is exactly the type of task which the swarming software we looked at last week excels at. Luckily enough, that just happens to be a Darpa program too. The technique of looking at small windows of interest also means that it may be possible to speed the frame rate up considerably – we previously looked at a windowing system so fast it could follow speeding bullets.

The ARGUS-IS mounted on the Hummingbird could be a significant battlefield asset for getting a real-time picture of what's on the other side of the hill. And no doubt there will be civilian agencies who think it might be quite a useful capability for them to have too.

Mythological Footnote: Someone in Darpa may be a fan of the classics – Argus or Argos Panoptes was a giant, unsleeping watchman with a hundred eyes all over his body. Unfortunately he was killed by Hermes; according to the myth, his eyes were placed on the tail of the peacock.

[Image: DARPA]

Official results confirm Livni win in Israel

Vaccines didn't cause autism, court rules

Chavez reports attempted coup, blames US

Interpol Issues Global Security Alert For Over 80 Saudi Terrorists

Mortgage Fraud Suspect Caught at Canadian Border With $70G Tucked in Shoes

Free Antibiotics -- in U.S. Food and Water

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israeli election spells problems for Mideast peace

Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu greeting supporters at Likud election headquarters in Tel Aviv

Livni: I'll fight on to form coalition, despite poor odds

Despite her slim chance of being able to form a government, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday pledged to make every effort to do so "for my voters." However, she said she would not pay "an exorbitant price" for other parties agreement to join her.

Likud may offer top spots to Kadima, Lieberman in bid to form quick coalition

Israeli election spells problems for Mideast peace

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Study Says Cleveland Is Miserable

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The city of Cleveland is miserable, according to a new study.

Cleveland ranks at number four of Forbes Magazine's new Miserable Cities rankings.

The magazine looked at nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund
sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

The study only ranked cities with a population of at least 378,000.

Here is a look at the top 10:

1. Stockton, California

2. Memphis, Tennessee

3. Chicago, Illinois

4. Cleveland, Ohio

5. Modesto, California

6. Flint, Michigan

7. Detroit, Michigan

8. Buffalo, New York

9. Miami, Florida

10. St. Louis, Missori

See the full report from Forbes Magazine,

click here.

Obama: Stimulus Vital To Avoid 'Catastrophe'

President Barack Obama, pressuring lawmakers to urgently approve a massive economic recovery bill, criticized Republicans who have balked at the legislation Monday night and said, "I can't afford to see Congress play the usual political games."

Obama used the first prime-time news conference of his presidency to warn that a failure to act swiftly and boldly "could turn a crisis into a catastrophe."

With the nation falling deeper into a long and painful recession, Obama defended his program against Republican criticism that it is loaded with pork-barrel spending and will not create jobs.

"The plan is not perfect," the president said. "No plan is. I can't tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans."

Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House in a news conference that lasted almost exactly one hour. He hit repeatedly at the themes he has emphasized in recent weeks, including at a town hall meeting to promote his plan earlier in the day in Elkhart, Ind.

When the stimulus bill passed the House last month, not a single Republican voted for it. On Monday an $838 billion version of the legislation cleared a crucial test vote in the Senate by a 61-36 margin, with all but three Republican senators opposing it.

Obama said he had made a deliberate effort to reach out to the GOP, putting three Republicans into his Cabinet, and "as I continue to make these overtures, over time, hopefully that will be reciprocated."

"So my bottom line when it comes to the recovery package is: send me a bill that creates or saves 4 million jobs."

Obama acknowledged the difficulty of mending political divisions between Republicans and Democrats.

"Old habits are hard to break," he said. "We're coming off an election, and people sort of want to test the limits of what they can get. There's a lot of jockeying in this town and who's up and who's down, testing for the next election."

Obama said the federal government was the only power that could save the nation at a time of crisis, with huge spending outlays and tax cuts.

"At this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life," he said.

Rejecting criticism that the emphasis on federal action was too great, he said that 90 percent of the jobs created by the plan would be in the private sector, rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges and other aging infrastructure.

"The plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenge we face right now," Obama said.

Again and again, he stressed that the economy is in dire straits.

"This is not your ordinary, run of the mill recession," he said. Obama said the United States aims to avoid the kind of economic pain that Japan endured in the 1990s - the "lost decade" when that nation showed no economic growth.

"My bottom line is to make sure that we are saving or creating 4 million jobs," he said, and that homeowners facing foreclosure receive some relief.

While Obama focused on the economy in the opening minutes of the news conference, he also faced questions on foreign policy. He was asked how his administration would deal with Iran, a nation accused by the United States of supporting terrorism and pursuing nuclear weapons.

The president said his administration was reviewing its policy toward Iran "looking at places where we can have constructive dialogue." He also said it was time for Iran to change its behavior.

"My expectation is in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face to face," Obama said.

He said that Iran must understand that funding terrorist organizations and pursuing nuclear weapons are unacceptable.

Obama tried to brace the U.S. for tougher sacrifices ahead in Afghanistan, where he said the national government is limited and terrorists still find places to hide and hinder coalition efforts.

An estimated 33,000 U.S. troops currently are in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon is expected to almost double that presence. So just as Obama is planning to pull troops out of Iraq, he is sending more into Afghanistan.

"I do not have a timetable for how long that's going to take," he said. "What I know is I'm not going to allow al-Qaida and (Osama) bin Laden to operate with impunity, planning attacks."

©2009 by The Associated Press.

Ohio Cop is Accused of Stealing $25,000 from the property room.

SYLVANIA, Ohio — A 35-year veteran of the Sylvania police department is accused of stealing $25,000 from the property room.

Carl Beckman allegedly took the cash while working as the property room officer for the past 20 years, ONN affiliate WTOL reported.

Police within the department noticed something was wrong, and Beckman reportedly confessed.

An indictment was filed against Beckman. The department is now doing a full audit of everything in the property room, WTOL reported.

Monday, February 9, 2009