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DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System

In Big Brother, News, Other Leaks, Police State, Science & Technology, USA, Viral Videos on January 29, 2013 at 2:07 AM


DARPA and the US Army have taken the wraps off ARGUS-IS, a 1.8-gigapixel video surveillance platform that can resolve details as small as six inches from an altitude of 20,000 feet (6km). ARGUS is by far the highest-resolution surveillance platform in the world, and probably the highest-resolution camera in the world, period.

ARGUS, which would be attached to some kind of unmanned UAV (such as the Predator) and flown at an altitude of around 20,000 feet, can observe an area of 25 square kilometers (10sqmi) at any one time. If ARGUS was hovering over New York City, it could observe half of Manhattan. Two ARGUS-equipped drones, and the US could keep an eye on the entirety of Manhattan, 24/7.

It is the definition of “observe” in this case that will blow your mind, though. With an imaging unit that totals 1.8 billion pixels, ARGUS captures video (12 fps) that is detailed enough to pick out birds flying through the sky, or a lost toddler wandering around. These 1.8 gigapixels are provided via 368 smaller sensors, which DARPA/BAE says are just 5-megapixel smartphone camera sensors. These 368 sensors are focused on the ground via four image-stabilized telescopic lenses.

The end result, as you can see in the (awesome) video above, is a mosaic that can be arbitrarily zoomed. In the video, a BAE engineer zooms in from 17,500 feet to show a man standing in a parking lot doing some exercises. A white speck is a bird flying around. You can’t quite make out facial features or license plates (phew), but I wonder if that would be possible if ARGUS was used at a lower altitude (during a riot, say).

ARGUS’s insane resolution is only half of the story, though. It isn’t all that hard to strap a bunch of sensors together, after all. The hard bit, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is the processing of all that image data. 1.8 billion pixels, at 12 fps, generates on the order of 600 gigabits per second. This equates to around 6 petabytes — or 6,000 terabytes — of video data per day. From what we can gather, some of the processing is done within ARGUS (or the drone that carries it), but most of the processing is done on the ground, in near-real-time, using a beefy supercomputer. We’re not entirely sure how such massive amounts of data are transmitted wirelessly, unless DARPA is waiting for its 100Gbps wireless tech to come to fruition.

The software, called Persistics after the concept of persistent ISR — intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance — is tasked with identifying objects on the ground, and then tracking them indefinitely. As you can see in the video, Persistics draws a colored box around humans, cars, and other objects of interest. These objects are then tracked by the software — and as you can imagine, tracking thousands of moving objects across a 10-square-mile zone is a fairly intensive task. The end user can view up to 65 tracking windows at one time.

According to the video, which is from the PBS Nova TV show, the ARGUS system in its entirety produces one million terabytes per day — all of which is stored by the Army for future use. We’re a bit skeptical about PBS’s crazy figure (a million terabytes is an exabyte), but in theory most of that data is actually metadata — the coordinates and other identifying features of the thousands (millions?) of objects being tracked by ARGUS.

The original goal was to deploy ARGUS in Afghanistan, but that never came to pass. It isn’t entirely clear what ARGUS’s future is; it was meant to be mounted on Boeing’s high-altitude A160 Hummingbird helicopter (pictured right), but the chopper has since been scrapped. If ARGUS is to be deployed, it will most likely be strapped to the underbelly of a Predator drone. Where it will be used, however, with the war in Afghanistan apparently winding down, is another question entirely. Its efficacy in a military setting would be unsurpassed, but it’s easy to imagine how ARGUS could be used here at home in the US, too.

Via ExtremeTech

Related Links:

PBS’ “Rise of the Drones” Documentary Really An Infomercial for Military Industrial Complex

Taranis: UK’s New Supersonic Stealth Drone Can Select Its Own Targets

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  2. […] is known for many creepy research projects like Big Dog and city-wide surveillance systems. Speaking of creepy, watch this Youtube video about Facebook and its DARPA and CIA […]


  3. […] is known for many creepy research projects like Big Dog and city-wide surveillance systems. Speaking of creepy, watch this Youtube video about Facebook and its DARPA and CIA origins. Also […]


  4. […] DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


  5. […] Related Link: DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


  6. Maaf.. saya terpaksa berterus terang dalam hal ni.
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    saya jumpa


  7. Incredible! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
    It’s on a totally different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!


  8. […] Dayton Ohio’s plan for an aerial surveillance system similar to the “nightmare scenario” ARGUS wide-area surveillance technology. Actually, ARGUS is just the most advanced of a number of such […]


  9. […] about ARGUS, the high-flying drone technology capable of capturing super-high-definition video of a 15-square […]


  10. […] DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


  11. […] Related Link: DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


  12. Far more dangerous than local police using small drones is the CURRENT police use of WIDE AREA PERSISTENT SURVEILLANCE – a system that allows one single aircraft (manned or drone) to record entire cities with enough clarity to follow individual pedestrians and vehicles anywhere in the city on a persistent 24/7 basis inside the recorded footage. This military sensor known alternatively as “ARGUS”, “Hawkeye II”, “Angelfire” and the “gorgon stare” also employs sophisticated software that allows computers to auto-track millions of moving objects and assign “tracklets” that can pinpoint a vehicles location at a time of the users choosing, much like a chronograph of cell phone geo-location data. This automation means that analysts need not even watch the footage, but instead simply query the system to locate anyone in the city at any given time, pursuant to forensic discovery.WAPS cameras mounted on planes, drones and blimps enable 24/7 persistent surveillance of entire cities 100sq kilometers in diameter.

    This technology is now going commercial, with companies like and PIXIA ( ) offering the Commercially Operated Persistent Surveillance Solution (COPSS). Local police have been utilizing these types of sensors since 2008 over cities including Cincinnati, Compton, Philadelphia, Columbus etc. in murder and narcotics investigations. US cities close to the border most likely endure more of this type of surveillance. This dragnet recording and auto-tracking puts everyone in the city under 24/7 surveillance that is the equivalent of having a private eye follow you everywhere you go with a video camera, including the ability to use night vision, thermal and look into your backyard.

    While these police and DHS surveillance operations are already underway, the entrance of DRONES will vastly increase the deployment of these sensors by enabling previously unviable persistence and drastically lowering deployment costs. Putting all American citizens under drone-enabled 24/7 airborne surveillance is patently unconstitutional and is an existential threat to democracy and freedom of speech. Regardless of whether or not a drone is flying it, ARGUS must not be allowed to operate domestically. Surveillance with a city-wide focus spies on everyone, “incidentally” or not. Please stand up and fight the use of Wide Area Persistent Surveillance against US citizens.

    Sincerely, Teame Zazzu


  13. […] Related Link: DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


  14. Oh man! This is awesome! The future will be more technologically advanced than in any science fiction movies! This is a very good achievement in the fields of image processing and Electronic design!! 🙂


  15. Reblogged this on The Wax Podcast Blog and commented:
    A New era in State run Surveillance has been unveiled…


  16. […] Related Link: DARPA’s 1.8 Gigapixel ARGUS-IS: World’s Highest Resolution Surveillance System […]


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