Big Brother America's Police State Grid: Unmanned, Armed Helicopters, Drones, Surveillance Blimps, Cameras and Biometrics
Unmanned Helicopters To Be Used For Surveillance
Tampa Bay Online | February 25, 2005
TAMPA - The Bergen Observer was grounded after a five- minute test flight.
The radio frequency used to pilot the unmanned remote control helicopter was jammed by walkie-talkie chatter from a nearby construction site, truckers' CB banter and the FM hit parade from passing car stereos.
``He is going to kill us,'' University of South Florida engineering Professor Kimon Valavanis said of a dump truck rumbling down Fowler Avenue. ``We don't have dedicated channels. We can't control the wireless network.''
Standing in an undeveloped corner of the campus, Valavanis and his graduate student team plugged the Observer into a laptop computer to reconfigure the controls. The machine lifted again after the delay.
Despite the snags at Thursday's media demonstration, such unmanned helicopters one day might fly low-altitude patrols over Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and other congested roads to help office-based traffic managers reroute motorists out of a jam.
Fitted with tiny video cameras, radar and other equipment, hovering helicopters also could become the ``eye-in- the-sky'' to first-responders at hazardous material spills and other accidents.
``While nothing will replace a human being on-site and actively being involved, these helicopters can act as the officer's eyes and ears when there is a lack of access to an incident,'' said Larry Hagen, traffic operations and safety director at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research.
Hagen and Valavanis have teamed up for the yearlong research project, which is funded by a $180,000 Federal Transit Administration grant.
Several commercial models such as the Bergen Observer, ranging from about 3 feet to 5 feet in length and weighing about 20 pounds, are being tested. Hagen said the small, gas-powered engines are ``not big enough for a lawn mower, maybe for a weed whacker.''
Researchers will begin experimenting with battery- powered models to boost flight time up to four hours.
The USF team also is working with the U.S. Department of Defense for military uses such as scanning for land mines or in urban warfare.
``I could see the parallel for traffic management,'' Hagen said. ``You want to see what's happening on the street, that's the field of battle, if you will.''
Couldn't the same helicopters used to monitor traffic accidents also put Big Brother another step closer to everyday life?
Hagen said security cameras already are ubiquitous in office buildings, shopping malls and college campuses.
``The helicopters are just a means to get sensors to a location,'' he said.
Less than 5 percent of Bay area roadways are monitored by video cameras, Hagan said.
Traffic researchers also must explore whether the low-flying minicopters could become a distraction to drivers.
Valavanis wants to build a model for about $15,000 that could be stored in a car trunk, allowing agencies to buy a fleet.
Law enforcement and traffic agencies also will have to sort out who controls the machines, and where and when they will be launched.
``The technical aspects are the easy part,'' Hagen said. ``The administrative and bureaucratic obstacles are more difficult to overcome.''