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Persistent Surveillance Systems – The Eye in the Sky

Persistent Surveillance Systems

Are you against or for aerial surveillance systems?

Working in the surveillance industry, you come to realize really quick that CCTV systems can widely reduce crime when in plain sight. Most people who are considering breaking the law will think twice when they see or know that there are surveillance cameras watching their every move. As we forge on into the future, technology is improving at an insane rate. This of course comes along with many privacy concerns. There are technologies that can help solve crimes which are not being used for privacy reasons alone. One technology that rides on the border of these privacy concerns is called Persistent Surveillance Systems. These are wide area surveillance systems that are usually mounted to a plane, drone, or tower high in the sky and can capture video of whole cities or towns. These innovative systems are no longer just being used to only capture video of military battles, but also being used by the police force to watch over cities. Some of these systems are composed of 192 Megapixel, full color cameras mounted to a plane in multiple locations to keep an eye on crime from up above. These multiple cameras are mounted in a way that they point in different directions to capture separate sections of a location and the software stitches it all together as one.

Ross McNutt by one of his aerial surveillance Cessnas

Ross McNutt by one of his aerial surveillance Cessnas

Ross McNutt, the genial president of Persistent Surveillance Systems, mentioned that he has witnessed many occurrences where people were murdered. The murderers were captured because of this technology, and most people feel that there would be even less crime once there is more press out there about these cities having surveillance up in the sky. In one specific incident, even though the video had very poor clarity, the images revealed a gang getting together to block off road access points and sending a shooter to meet his target. The cameras captured this man taking off after the body hit the ground. When the police finally received a copy of the report, they noticed that there was a picture of a blue building that the murderer ran into. This footage contained the images of a man being murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, using cameras specially fitted onto a Cessna plane. McNutt stated, “I’ve witnessed 34 of these. It’s like opening up a murder mystery in the middle, and you need to figure out what happened before and after.”

We have definitely become more accustomed to seeing CCTV surveillance cameras in public, and most people don’t even think twice about it. However, new technologies are here that most people aren’t even aware of yet and it’s capable of being deployed without anyone even really knowing about it. These technologies can track cars in small cities for many hours at a time. The clarity isn’t good enough to distinguish faces or license plates, but it certainly is capable of tracking an individual. If a police officer wanted to find out who they were tracking, all they have to do is go to the business or the homes of the places these individuals are visiting and ask them to help identify the person of interest.

These cameras are already being used for securing large events such as the Ohio political rally where John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate back in 2008 (Which was a stupid move in my opinion!). They have even used this technology for Police demonstrations and NASCAR races. They have even been commissioned to use it for a request that a Mexican politician put in for the city of Ciudad Juárez. These cameras have basically become a time machine for the police force, allowing them to look back at an incident that occurred during the recording.

Persistent Surveillance Systems

Aerial Surveillance Software leads to capturing criminals but at what cost?

Of course, this is becoming more and more of a civil liberty concern for city officials and civilians alike. The Supreme Court has given permission for this technology to be used as long as they are only video taping instances that can be seen with the naked eye in public. McNutt is a retired Air Force officer who has designed a similar system and has been fighting to win over the officials. He did make a good point that these flights are way cheaper and more efficient than police helicopter missions. He has also mentioned that a single camera on top of the Washington monument could possibly deter most of the crime in the area. Especially if the media speaks up about it and help make more people aware. Criminals will definitely be deterred when they hear about all the cameras that are on them when they are about to commit a particular crime. Those 192MP cameras can capture up to 50 crimes within a short 6 hour flight that would provide the city police with a stream that covers more than 1/3 of the city. McNutt feels that this technology will deter crime enough to raise property values, create better schools, increase development in the specific areas, and eventually even lower arrest rates.

The Dayton Ohio police force has even planned on inviting the public out to see how this system works. This will more than likely make some people feel better about it, and also deter others who may have been criminals before and are then too scared to commit a crime in fear of being caught. Many defense contractors are eager to use technology that has been used in the military in the past, but McNutt is taking the time to get information from the American Civil Liberties Union in order to write a proper privacy policy for this technology. This policy would set the rules on how long and how much data can be stored, as well as setting some guidelines for who has the ability to access the system and footage. According to the policy being put together, Police shouldn’t be able to watch back any of the footage unless there is a crime that occurred. This way the system cannot be misused to spy on people or gather information that is not directly related to protecting the city. He plans on extending the range that these cameras can see, but he does not have current plans to improve the clarity of the footage. So in reality, people shouldn’t be so worried about what they’re going to be seen doing since the cameras can’t pick up that kind of clarity. People are certainly worried that if they’re hanging out in their yards, that every move they make is going to be seen. These cameras will benefit in seeing a person leaving the scene of the crime and following them to their destination instead of seeing every last detail of the person and vehicle they may be driving. During one demonstration of the software, there was an attempted robbery in a book store and shots were fired. The footage ended up showing that there was just one car which drove between locations helping them identify what happened.

Unfortunately, this is how police departments are viewing this issue. They would rather people be afraid of when they’re being watched and I’m not sure that’s really the best solution to these problems. This type of attitude can lead to the “1984” scenario that everyone always talks about. Militarize police in America, it’s what everyone seems to be against other than the police. Even the politicians feel that this isn’t the best solution and they know that the public wont be too happy about it even with their privacy policy. Just because those are the rules doesn’t mean that police forces are going to fully obey them. McNutt has complained that they aren’t serious about crime, but I disagree. I feel like he’s just disregarding the fact that these politicians and the public may have a much better understanding of the constitutional problem with an aerial surveillance system.

How do you guys feel about this? Do you think it’s okay for them to monitor cities and towns from the sky in order to maintain public safety, or do you think it’s just going to cause more privacy issues while going against our civil liberties? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comment section below.

If you have any questions that we may be able to answer about CCTV products for your home or business feel free to contact us at anytime Mon-Fri from 9AM-8PM EST. We have now opened a secondary location in Wheat Ridge Colorado so we’re able to stay open two hours later in order to help you with your tech support or sales questions. Our phone numbers and contact info are listed below in the footer of this web site.

Dro Simoes
Dro Simoes
Web Designer and Programmer for Techpro Security.

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