Today I went to day one of a two day homeland security symposium. It was pretty interesting, and I'll share some of what I learn this weekend.
When I got there, I saw this overhead
Of course, my immediate thought was that "the balloon went up" and the SHTF. Then I figured that we were on a college campus, so it was probably something to do with a new student ort or something.
But then, inside the symposium, I'm checking out the vendors and sponsors and I see these
Seems that the innocent looking balloon was actually an unmanned aerial surveillance device.
It will broadcast images for 10 hours by battery, or indefinitely while tethered to power. The images were not great, jumping as the balloon was buffeted by the wind, but it could zoom in pretty tight. The images were also in black and white, and almost appeared to be like looking through some night vision.
Edited 7/20/12 - I got this shot today, it seems as if the camera can take high res color shots as well
But the point isn't how good they are, it is the fact that there is yet another method of keeping an eye on folks. I could see legitimate use for this type of thing at a state fair or a festival or something where they could use it for crowd safety and management. I could also see some illegal search and seizure uses for it. Got a tall privacy fence so folks can't see into your property from the road? They could just launch this over your land and take a peek while you are at work. Maybe you have a long wooded driveway and no trespassing signs, but no fence. They could send this up to see what you are up to. Yeah, it is a balloon, and a well placed piece of lead will probably bring it down, but I imagine they'll have some law on the books to really hammer you if you do that.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about it is the name of the company.
Skynet sound familiar? That's the name of the artificial intelligence that ends up taking over the world, enslaving humans, and sending the Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor. The company wouldn't have done that on purpose... would they?