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Blimps Monitor Crowds At Sporting Events 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the inflatable-rights-violation dept.
Death Metal tips news about how defense contractor Raytheon is adapting military-style surveillance packages for use aboard blimps at public events like the Indy 500. "Until recently, Raytheon's eye-in-the-sky technology was used in Afghanistan and Iraq to guard American military bases, working as airborne guards against any oncoming desert threat. Using infrared sensors and a map overlay not unlike Google Earth, the technology scans a large area, setting important landmarks (say, the perimeter of a military base), and constantly relays video clips back to a command center. If a gun fires or a bomb is detonated, the airships can detect the noise and focus the camera — all from a mighty-high 500 feet." Though the technology is expensive, Raytheon is shopping it around to police departments and other organizations that might want to keep an eye on large gatherings of people.
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Blimps Monitor Crowds At Sporting Events

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  • FP (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:00PM (#28321219) Homepage Journal
    Silly Raytheon.

    There aren't going to be any terrorist attacks.

    You just throw money at congressmen.

    But seriously, this is horseshit. The only bad guys they catch will be the ones up in the nosebleed section sitting alone with their girlfriends who are discretely giving them head or playing "bouncy-horse" [break.com] on their laps.
    • If there are terrorist attacks in a stadium, I think video footage BEFORE the gun or bomb noise would typically be of greater interest than the footage after.

      It'll take about 0.5 seconds for sound to travel the 500 feet up to the airships.

      Thus all that fancy expensive tech might end up giving you just lower res pics before the camera zoomed and focused in and got videos of everybody except the culprits.

      How expensive is that system going to be?

      If it's in the millions and I was seriously going to be monitorin
      • Agreed. Also, anyone seriously criminal would just shoot at the blimp, possibly from miles outside the stadium.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Plunky (929104)

          Agreed. Also, anyone seriously criminal would just shoot at the blimp, possibly from miles outside the stadium.

          Actually, bits of flaming blimp raining down on a crowd would be pretty terrifying in itself. Remind me to take a tinfoil umbrella.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by osu-neko (2604)

          People shoot at the Goodyear blimp all the time. They usually don't find out about it until later, after the blimp lands. A bullet hole doesn't make a large enough hole for the helium to leak out quickly enough to be noticeable in the span of a flight that's only four or six hours or so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054)

        So much of what is sold as Protection these days is all about catching people AFTER the fact.

        How many total FAILS do we need to see that buses still get bombed and innocent Brazilians still get shot in the head no matter how many security cams you hang up?

        The truth is that the real terrorists don't care if they are caught, and this type of situation will not prevent sneaking weapons or explosives into a stadium, or prevent someone half a mile away from dropping a 8 or 10 mortar rounds into an event before t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          So much of what is sold as Protection these days is all about catching people AFTER the fact.

          That's because doing things that would catch them BEFORE the fact are kinda frowned upon. You know, things like checking luggage and searching people before they board flights, searching the belongings of people coming into the country, listening to conversations overseas and so on. Hell, people are pissed that they have to show friggin ID before boarding a plane!

          So make up your mind. Do you want to catch these guys BEFORE an attack or AFTER?

          • No, people frown upon gestapo style security theater bullshit like the liquids ban and telling people that it is illegal for them to know what is and is not illegal.

            Real security isn't nearly so annoying despite being far more thorough. It's also easily twice as fast as the security theater we have now.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by falconwolf (725481)

            Hell, people are pissed that they have to show friggin ID before boarding a plane!

            As they should be, checking ID to board a plane does nothing for safety, everyone of the 911 hijackers had ID. And these new "Real ID" cards will only give people a false sense of safety, they'll only be good until someone cracks them, which is only a matter of tyme.

            Do you want to catch these guys BEFORE an attack or AFTER?

            "Anyone who will give up a little liberty for safety will never get nor deserve either."
            From Benjamin F

          • by icebike (68054)

            That's because doing things that would catch them BEFORE the fact are kinda frowned upon.

            Clearly you haven't attended a ball game any time recently.

            People are screened at the gate. Bags are checked.

            But the whole point of your post is that we EITHER have to let people get killed and catch the culprits after the fact OR we have to set up a Gestapo state. You seem to allow no middle ground.

            Silly as the method proposed by TFA is, it is at least an attempt at a third approach.

      • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @04:37PM (#28322245) Homepage Journal

        ...I think video footage BEFORE the gun or bomb noise would typically be of greater interest than the footage after.

        It'll take about 0.5 seconds for sound to travel the 500 feet up to the airships.

        Thus all that fancy expensive tech might end up giving you just lower res pics before the camera zoomed and focused in and got videos of everybody except the culprits.

        but the after-footage will be useful for broadcasting over and over again, putting the general public into a state of panic, so politicians and corporations can exploit their fears and get away with even more wasteful spending.

    • Not quite right (Score:3, Interesting)

      by westlake (615356)

      The only bad guys they catch will be the ones up in the nosebleed section sitting alone with their girlfriends...

      I believe the scenario is Alfred Hitchcock's:

      The crowd at a tennis match is following the action.

      Back and forth, back and forth, their heads and bodies constantly on the move, bobbing, twisting, in unison with the play.

      All but one....

      The killer is in the crowd, but he is not truly part of the crowd, and that is a subtle and important distinction.

      It can be a useful - practical - distinction.

      So

      • by c_forq (924234)
        So next time my girlfriend drags me to a tennis match I'm not interested I'm going to get detained, searched, and questioned? (Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm on slashdot, so don't have a girlfriend, and wouldn't leave the basement, etc., etc.)
        • by PFI_Optix (936301)

          Yes. Failing to act like everyone else is justification for detention. Or maybe it's just grounds to pay a little closer attention to you, put a plainclothes officer near you for observation.

    • by maz2331 (1104901)

      There most certainly will be attacks, as there are just too many asshats for there not to be.

      The first line of defense is the same as anything else: someone calls the authorities when they see one shaping up. Then an investigation can do a "sting" and take them down, as was recently the case in New York.

      The second line of defense is to stop attacks in progress if at all possible. That means armed responders and/or civillians nearby.

      Cameras may be slightly helpful, but most likely the response will still b

    • by mikael (484)

      But there are pissed off Gypsies who don't like police helicopters flying over their camps:

      Gypsies smash 5 million pound police helicopter [dailymail.co.uk]

      Now the police could just tether a blimp from the nearest car showroom and nobody would know.

    • "...In other news, Goodyear and Raytheon announced a partnership that promises to increase national security by 107% over the next 8 years. The new system, designed by Raytheon, is expected to be in service once final miniaturization is completed. Currently, Raytheon is testing new light-weight designs with great success. The newest design attaches to the nose piece of the Goodyear blimp..."

      http://www.feldmanbd.com/GoodyearBlimpCrash.jpg [feldmanbd.com]

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:04PM (#28321251) Homepage Journal

    "The airship is great because it doesn't have that Big Brother feel, or create feelings of invasiveness," says Lee Silvestre, vice president of mission innovation in Raytheon's Integrated Defense division.

    Oh, okay. As long as we don't feel like we're being watched, everything's all right then.

    Excuse me? Isn't the whole idea of a good spy not to make the targets feel like they're being watched? Is it okay for foreign agents to get copies of classified documents as long as we don't feel like they're doing it?

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:10PM (#28321297) Homepage

      Blimps and airships have featured in many works of dystopian fiction. Especially alternative time-line "soviets won" type works.
      So I think he could be wrong about that one.

      • Ahh, but blimps have also been used in utopian fiction, and in reality they have both previously been used for both good and bad purposes, just like airplanes, trains, cars, and video recording devices of all kinda.

        Most peoples perception of whether a blimp is good or bad relies almost entirely on it's markings and previous experiences with those markings, the Goodyear blimps(s) have been used and seen as passive, non-threatening for years, how would you tell if it's a "good" or "bad" Goodyear Blimp? A smal

        • Nobody ever suspects the Goodyear blimp

        • by Narpak (961733)

          Most peoples perception of whether a blimp is good or bad relies almost entirely on it's markings and previous experiences with those markings, the Goodyear blimps(s) have been used and seen as passive, non-threatening for years, how would you tell if it's a "good" or "bad" Goodyear Blimp?

          I suddenly got this vision of an Evil Goodyear Blimp; black and red covered in spikes, with ominous smoke/fog trailing along behind it. Yup with that one you'd just know that it was up to no good.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Isn't the whole idea of a good spy not to make the targets feel like they're being watched?

      Actually, it can be quite productive to rattle the chains now and then. People make mistakes when they are spooked.

      As long as we don't feel like we're being watched, everything's all right then.

      There are times and places when no one really objects much to being watched - but will object to an show of force.

      The blimp floating lazily overhead just isn't that intimidating.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by migla (1099771)

      You make a good point, but I'd like to chime in that one thing about big brother is precisely to make us feel watched. If you make people feel watched all the time, they will internalize the surveillance and they will watch themselves and you won't even have to watch them. Panopticon.

  • by MLS100 (1073958) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:06PM (#28321279)

    As long as I don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    The problem is in the abuse of this, like the footage that came out of the police using their night surveillance equipment to spy on individuals having an evening with a lady in their penthouse.

    So as long as abuse is monitored and actively discouraged, what's wrong with being watched while you're in public?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)
      [quote]As long as I don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy.[/quote]Simply because you "don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy" doesn't mean that this type of surveylence is reasonable.
    • The issue goes far beyond the matter of reasonable expectation of privacy. Raytheon's newest totalitarian toy serves to gather information, information that can be stored, analysed and cross-referenced with other sources. That means that when someone employs Raytheon's new toy, along with other similar systems, that someone is now able to register everything you do in public. That means where you go, who you go with, how much time you spent in a place, who you talked to... That someone is putting himself i
    • by migla (1099771)

      Maybe there'll be a great upheaval of some sort and some crazy privacy zealots will gain control over the country and all the data and then they will line you anti-privacy people against the wall and shoot you? That's why you need privacy, to protect you from the crazy privacy zealots.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You're out in public someplace, and you notice someone staring at you. Creepy! You move a little bit and he follows you with his eyes. Scary! You walk away, hoping he doesn't follow you... then you realize he is in a blimp 500ft in the sky and there is nowhere to hide. And he is also taking video, calling up your DMV records, and logging your location for the FBI. Time to buy a shoulder-fired rocket!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      The problem with surveillance is, it WILL be abused. Just think of the political uses. You happen to be mayor, governor, or senator, incumbent in a pretty close race. Oh, wait, sweet. We can just put a surveillance team on the challenger, and wait for SOMETHING to happen. If the candidate doesn't do something illegal, immoral, or unethical, one of his aides or advisors will. Sweet. Just think of the possibilities!!

      I could give you hundreds of other potential abuses without trying very hard. Just use

    • > So as long as abuse is monitored and actively discouraged...
      I'm sure any abuse will be monitored and discouraged to the same extent it currently is :-)

      Oh and by the way, your back-yard is now considered a public space. Don't be alarmed though, we won't tell anyone what you get up to there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      So as long as abuse is monitored and actively discouraged, what's wrong with being watched while you're in public?

      Who's watching the watchers?

      Falcon

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:06PM (#28321283)

    Considering the fact that we've had so many problems with stadium slaughterings and bombings.

    oh wait... i ate too much scramby eggs w/ sarcasm on the side.

    Lol @ excessive response to lesser problems.

    • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:47PM (#28321557)

      Lol @ excessive response to lesser problems.

      Something must be done to combat terrorism.
      This is something.
      Therefore, we must do this.

      • Oh noeess!! There's a terrorist in the stadium!!

        meanwhile, the 2,039 cheeseburgers they sold during the show will probably lead to more loss of life...

        haha. Fear for terrorists just feeds the fire (aka 'terrorized'), and statistically I'm a bit more worried about day to day life killing me than a terrorist. Hell, we're not done worrying about pinko commies! They're gonna eat our babies!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Shark (78448)

          You should be worried about pinko commies... Nationalizing banking, insurance, healthcare, education, car manufacturing, transportation, your corner store. ;) Just face it dude, they won... Oh wait, I have to go get these damn kids off my lawn.

          More seriously though, even the russians are shaking their heads at what's going on. Germans who are old enough to remember too.

          • I think you've got your terms mixed up. When you understand the difference between socialism and communism, you can make more effective arguments. But since you can't at present, you've made a very poor and basically wrong example.

  • Oops (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:09PM (#28321293)

    When I read the title, I thought this was about donut-eating cops.

    Never mind.

  • by Karganeth (1017580) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:13PM (#28321325)
    Using traditional slashdot logic, I have arrived at the conclusion that this must be bad... somehow.
  • Wonder how many of these were flying over the skies of Pittsburgh and Detroit last night?
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:19PM (#28321373) Homepage
    The fact that this is in yro makes it sound like someone thought it would be a privacy issue, but I don't see why. The idea is to use it on crowds of people at sports events, etc., where they don't have any expectation of privacy. Viewing from 500 feet and at a high angle, with a field of view wide enough to take in the whole crowd, they're not going to be able to identify individuals. They propose zooming in to a particular region if there are gunshots or something, and maybe then, if the angle is appropriate, they could get some kind of view of an individual's face, although it seems unlikely. What makes surveillance like this scary is if it (a) goes into places where you do have an expectation of privacy (like the Obama administration's plans to read email that crosses international borders), (b) is ubiquitous (as it is in the UK), (c) raises the prospect of aggregating data in creepy ways (like being denied health insurance because you buy too much vodka with your preferred customer card at Albertson's), or (d) forces us to take the government's word that it isn't going to be used more than they said (like the Bush administration's wiretaps). The blimp concept doesn't seem to lend itself to any of these.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:55PM (#28321597) Homepage

      The idea is to use it on crowds of people at sports events, etc

      The problem isn't the sporting event, it's the "etc."

      These things are expensive. They're not going to sit there just for Superbowl Sunday or whatever. They'll be used for as much surveillance as they can get away with. Whether it's a good idea or not. Think 'mission creep'.

      • <quote><blockquote><div><p>The idea is to use it on crowds of people at sports events, etc</p></div></blockquote><p>
        The problem isn't the sporting event, it's the "etc."

        These things are expensive. They're not going to sit there just for Superbowl Sunday or whatever. They'll be used for as much surveillance as they can get away with. Whether it's a good idea or not. Think 'mission creep'.</p></quote>

        Exactly. It reminds me how all that "anti-terr
      • by bcrowell (177657)

        >>The idea is to use it on crowds of people at sports events, etc

        >These things are expensive. They're not going to sit there just for Superbowl Sunday or whatever. They'll be used for as much surveillance as they can get away with. Whether it's a good idea or not. Think 'mission creep'.

        The slippery slope is always something to worry about. But I'd like to hear a realistic description of how that would work here. Its overhead point of view, hundreds of feet up, is going to give it mostly blurry s

      • by Sabriel (134364)

        The idea is to use it on crowds of people at sports events, etc

        The problem isn't the sporting event, it's the "etc." These things are expensive. They're not going to sit there just for Superbowl Sunday or whatever. They'll be used for as much surveillance as they can get away with. Whether it's a good idea or not. Think 'mission creep'.

        Viewing from 500 feet and at a high angle, with a field of view wide enough to take in the whole crowd, they're not going to be able to identify individuals.

        Yet. Optics is an advancing field. Combine "yet" with "mission creep"... get the picture?

    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      The problem is, what do they do with it the other 300 plus days that this is not used for an outside sporting event ? .. Of course they use it.. perhaps under the pretext of "training",. but it would be used, and abused you can count on it.
    • Surveillance isn't ubiquitous in the UK.

      Not unless you're one of those folks who think UK=England, and England=London. Of which there are quite a few.

      (Actually I've never quite understood why people mix up the UK and England as being synonymous, any ideas?)

      Mind you I accept there is too much surveillance over here.

      • by hachete (473378)

        Yes, we have too much surveillance. And it hasn't reduced crime by an amount commensurate with the cost, IMO.

        The English used to refer to England standing in for the whole of the UK. A synecdoche if you will. So, the monarch of this torpid islands used to sign themselves King or Queen of England, and that would apply to the whole. The multiple volume Oxford History of England was, you guessed it, a history of the UK. It has changed, particularly since devolution. We are British now, apparently, although thi

        • by smoker2 (750216)
          No, never was that true. James the first was King of England & Scotland. I don't see how a private publication has any bearing on what the official definition of the nation might be either. Britain refers to the group of islands, not the nation. The nation is the United Kingdom. How is that England on its own ?

          I can't remember the last time I saw a camera, except in high traffic areas where they are used for traffic monitoring or in city centres where it makes more sense than trying to patrol every str
  • There was a book with a movie followup about putting a bomb in a blimp over the super bowl.

    Looks like it just got easier to do that.
    Who watches the watchers?

    • by dangitman (862676)

      a bomb in a blimp over the super bowl.

      Sounds like some sort of scatological fetish book to me.

  • Good old Raytheon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gringofrijolero (1489395) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:24PM (#28321417) Journal

    I wonder if they offer cool tech for us regular citizens to watch over the authorities. Kinda doubt it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      There are several open UAV platforms out there now, including planes, helicopters, and quadrocopters. Any sizable and stable remote controlled aircraft is a candidate, but the quadrocopters are probably your best bet for video surveillance.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      How dare you ask such a thing citizen, please come with us.

  • Raytheon is a for-profit corporation in a country where everything is for sale including the country. They are just trying to make a profit off of the pop-fear of domestic terrorism.

    Try to change the culture of "profit first" above anything else and educate the masses if you want to never see programs like this again.

    • by Shark (78448)

      You have a point, but I don't think the problem is so much the 'for profit' bit as the 'country for sale' bit. Government in bed with (selling out to) corporations is textbook fascism. Politicians who love their country would not be selling it out to the highest bidder. Then again, politicians tend to love power not their country.

      Bottom line here is that there are great constitutional safeguards against this. The people just forgot that *they* are the government (you know, government of the people bit)

    • Try to change the culture of "profit first" above anything else and educate the masses if you want to never see programs like this again.

      Someone tried to remove the profit motive once. Soviet Russia, called it was I think.

      • The point was "profit first, above anything else", not removing the motivation for profit. There are higher priorities than profit.

  • Doesn't this make the blimp an obvious target for anybody who really wants to do mischief?

    • Exactly - so their buddy sits outside the stadium and shoots it with a WW2 rifle first... Goodbye blimp!
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:31PM (#28321471) Homepage

    Probably a bad idea. This is known in the military as the "Great Squad Leader in the Sky" syndrome (a phrase coined by David Hackworth, one of the greats of small-unit combat), and has been since Vietnam. Leadership from a helicopter overlooking a combat zone sounded like a great idea; at last, the commander could see everything. In practice, it works very badly.

    Piping vast amounts of imagery back to a command center is popular with commanders and politicians, but not with grunts. It's useful for finding enemy activity, but not much help once the enemy has been engaged.

    It turns out that the technology the people on the ground really like is small robots. Sending in a robot first in urban warfare is very popular with the troops. Nobody likes going into a possible ambush or booby trap several times a day. Eventually the odds catch up with you.

    • by tuxedobob (582913)

      I think you're thinking about it from a wartime point of view. Ideally, if you go to, say, a NASCAR race, you're hoping somebody won't start opening with gunfire or blowing stuff up. You're looking for any activity in a sea of non-activity, and it sounds like this is well-adapted to the purpose.

      I don't imagine they'll use it for something as simple as a car race, but I could see some potential application for very high-profile events like the Super Bowl or New Year's Eve in New York City.

  • Look! Over there! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @03:00PM (#28321635)

    "If a gun fires or a bomb is detonated, the airships can detect the noise and focus the camera."

    Note to self: if ever wanting to defeat the system, remotely or have a friend, set off a string of fire crackers somewhere else while I carry on unwatched.

    "Though the technology is expensive, Raytheon is..." hoping customers won't be put off by a system that falls for the equivalent of "Look! Elvis!"?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      These days it is possible to use audio fingerprinting and multiple semi-directional microphones to detect the heading and distance to a shooter, and even the type of weapon and ammunition (within certain parameters.) I don't know for sure that Raytheon will put anything like that into this package, but they are experts in remote sensing.

  • Combine this technology with the techniques used in the DIY Arduino Blimp Drone project discussed here before, add some offensive capabilities, and create our own surveillance droids [wikia.com] to you know, keep the neighbor's kids off our lawn.
  • So ? They will just raise taxes to pay for it. Remember folks, its 'for the children'.

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @04:03PM (#28322031)

    Using high-tech blimps to spy on sporting crowds is a fantastic idea to fill the gap until our intelligence services work out some way to get their own people into the crowds of these events, but to do that they would need to crack the intelligence crown jewels and figure out how and when these events will be held. It's great the things that government and the military industrial concept can achieve that a lesser mind might be tempted to do on the cheap.

    And to the NSA guy sneering at this post, why aren't you doing something about bin Laden instead? He's on the Afgani-Pakistan border. Everyone knows it. The Daily Show event did a live cross from there. Or don't you guys get cable?

  • Luckily... (Score:2, Funny)

    by EmagGeek (574360)

    ... it's illegal in the US to fly an airship less than 1000 feet above a gathering of people, or less than 1000 feet above the highest obstacle within 2000 lateral feet of the airship.

  • Like a football game or political rally, you can be expected to be monitored by police, event security and the media.

    blimps have been at football games with cameras for 49 years. The idea of using blimps for anti-terrorism purposes is not scary nor is it that big of a news story.

     

  • I must have missed the announcement... when did Slashdot add the new Your Rights Outside section?

    -

  • How come this didn't get sold to North Korea? I can already see the implementations there. Gatherings of one or more persons on a street corner are illegal. Actually maybe this thing needs a !NK and !2people tag.

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