In 1978 the then-US under-Secretary of Defense, William Perry, declared that the Pentagon was seeking the ability “to be able to see all high-value targets on the battlefield at any time, to be able to make a direct hit on any target we can see, and to be able to destroy any target we can hit.” In ‘The Eye of War‘, author Antoine Bousquet argues that military technology is increasingly allowing this objective to be achieved at virtually any time and in virtually any place around the world.
‘The Eye of War’ is the story of the evolution of what Bousquet calls ‘the martial gaze’ – a gaze that threatens anything which falls under it with obliteration. Today’s military drones are a high profile, modern manifestation, of an ability to spot and destroy a target which has been emerging since the Middle Ages, and ‘The Eye of War’ sets out in vivid terms the histories of the various technologies involved and how they have converged to create a world which, in the words of military scholar Martin Libicki “visibility equals death”. Read more →
Arthur Holland Michel, author of ‘Eyes In The Sky’, is one of the co-founders of the Centre for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York State. The Centre for the Study of the Drone has done extraordinary work in monitoring the spread in the use of drones, including publication of ‘The Drone Databook’, a detailed country-by-county study of military drone capabilities; a comprehensive study of counter-drone systems; and a weekly round-up of news and developments in the world of drones.
With this pedigree, and Michel’s background as a journalist reporting on technical issues, we can expect an authoritative and carefully considered account of the topic he has chosen to investigate in this book: the emergence of wide area persistent surveillance systems and their use in warfare and policing. Based in large part on interviews with insiders, ‘Eyes In The Sky’ gives a balanced but nevertheless worrying account of the dramatic implications that wide area surveillance will have for society. Read more →
According to Marine Corps General James Cartwright, Vice Chair of the Military Joint Chiefs of Staff, the video is “boring intelligence analysts to tears.”
Forced to watch what Gen. Cartwright called “Death TV,” bleary-eyed analysts at ground stations and other outposts spend hours wading through useless data until they spot signs of a target and recommend that the drone fire its missile.
Cartwright wants (yes, you’ve guessed it) more autonomy and technology to solve the problem and companies are lining up to provide the technology to process the video feed. “Within three years, it will be technically feasible to run these sophisticated algorithms and extract relevant essence data from the content” according to John Delay of Harris Corp which has, according to the article, several defense contracts, but also has also made transmitters for broadcast television since 1969. (Death TV indeed!)
Unfortunately for the analysts, and without doubt Afghans too, Aviation Week says that Gorgon Stare will enter service aboard US Reaper drones in Afghanistan next month Gorgon Stare is a new surveillance capability that allows a wide area of ground to be videoed while also enabling individuals to be tracked within that wide area. As Aviation Week explains:
‘The five EO cameras each shoot two 16-megapixel frames/sec., which are stitched together by the computer to create an 80-megapixel image…. The result is a system that offers a “many orders of magnitude” leap beyond the “soda straw” view provided by the single EO/IR camera carried by an MQ-1 Predator or a conventional Reaper UAV…. The video taken by Gorgon Stare’s cameras can be “chipped out” into 10 individual views and streamed to that many recipients or more… At the same time, Gorgon Stare will process the images from all its cameras in flight, quilting them into a mosaic for a single wide-area view.’
Four sets of Gorgons will enter service next month as part of the initial deployment. A further developed version, involving BAE Systems’ ARGUS system [see ‘our Outstaring the Gorgon: BAE, Drones and ARGUS] is already being developed and tested.
Meanwhile the US Army has announced plans to conduct the largest ever demonstration of interoperability between manned and unmanned systems next year with the aim of proving that MUSIC (Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Concept) can work. As previously mentioned there is enormous pressure on political and civil authorities to allow unmanned aerial vehicles to operate within civil airspace and MUSIC is another step in that direction. However Drone Wars UK can’t help but point out, as yet another drone crashes, that unmanned systems continue to regularly fall out of the sky.