U.S. military turns to TV for surveillance technology


Julian E. Barnes
Los Angeles Times
July 15, 2010

Reporting from Washington — As it rapidly expands its drone program over Afghanistan, the U.S. military is turning to the technology that powers NFL broadcasts, ESPN and TV news to catalog a flood of information coming from the cameras of its fleet of unmanned aircraft.

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U.S. military archives hold 24 million minutes of video collected by Predators and other remotely piloted aircraft that have become an essential tool for commanders. But the library is largely useless because analysts often have no way of knowing exactly what they have, or any way to search for information that is particularly valuable.

To help solve that problem, the Air Force and government spy satellite experts have begun working with industry experts to adapt the methods that enable the NFL and other broadcasters to quickly find and show replays, display on-field first-down markers and jot John Madden-style notations on the screen.

“The NFL has the technology so you can pull an instant replay of any Brett Favre touchdown over his career,” said Carl Rhodes, a researcher with Rand Corp. “The idea is maybe the Air Force could use similar technology to look at what has happened at a particular corner in Afghanistan in the past week or past year.”

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