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Gorgon Stare
January 5, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

With Air Force's Gorgon Drone 'we can see everything.' "In ancient times, Gorgon was a mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them. In modern times, Gorgon may be one of the military's most valuable new tools. This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town."
posted by homunculus (85 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Air Force Gorgon Stare requires six AA batteries, not included. Do not submerge Air Force Gorgon Stare in water. Air Force Gorgon Stare contains choking hazards and is not intended for children under three.
posted by theodolite at 9:52 AM on January 5, 2011 [23 favorites]


Panopticons are always great ideas, but only for other people.
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Meh, call me up when they've got these things.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:57 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boy am I ever glad I'm on the good guys' team!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:57 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


This brings to mind Charles Stross's SCORPION STARE techonology.
posted by kurumi at 9:57 AM on January 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's a pity it can so easily be defeated by the use of a metal shield polished to a fine mirror finish.
posted by ErikaB at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2011 [17 favorites]


"Stare" sounds like a Google application.

Also: the ability to see everything is useless if you still don't understand why bombing a few dozen people to kill one is more a function of high tech toys, funding, and corruption than stopping terrorists, saving lives, or even as base as simply protecting American lives.
posted by yeloson at 9:59 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Paging Mr. Stross.
posted by homunculus at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2011


But when do we get the actual "turn people to stone" technology? 'cuz that will be cool.
posted by fartknocker at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2011


Everything?
posted by Flunkie at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you're naming your project something like "Gorgon Stare", that's probably a bad sign. I mean, that's got "evil supervillain" written all over it.

What's next, "Death Blight"? "Plague Harvest"? "Doom Pain Kill Kill Kill Die"?
posted by KChasm at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


With Air Force's Gorgon Drone 'we can see everything.'

I guess it was designed by Patrick Stewart.
posted by brundlefly at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011 [22 favorites]


Damn you, Flunkie!
posted by brundlefly at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011


Air Force Gorgon Stare contains choking hazards and is not intended for children under three.

Do not taunt Air Force Gorgon Stare. Seriously. Do not taunt Air Force Gorgon Stare.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're so gonna win this war.
posted by monospace at 10:03 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


What's next, "Death Blight"? "Plague Harvest"? "Doom Pain Kill Kill Kill Die"?

You mean Operation Commando Wrath didn't do it for you?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's kind of goofy that they haven't done this already, strapping a dozen more cameras to the thing to give it a Google Streetview-style panorama is not exactly a huge step in terms of technology, especially when we're talking about something as sophisticated as a remotely-piloted aerial vehicle.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2011


> It's kind of goofy that they haven't done this already

Hearsay, but I was told something like this was being used and perfected in Iraq as early as 2009. What sets it apart from a simple panorama is the ability to quickly identify and obliterate individuals.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:08 AM on January 5, 2011


(and any other individuals who have the misfortune of being nearby)
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2011


STOP TELLING CSTROSS ABOUT IT.
posted by Skorgu at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I enjoy reading about all the terrifying new advances in unmanned aerial surveillance/offense, I would reading about effective counter-measures more. I love the tech behind UAVs but they portend a future that is disquieting. Constant warantless aerial surveillance? A quadracopter CCTV above every block?

Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

It is also interesting to see that the US is continuing to look for technological solutions to social problems. I suppose that is what the military is for, I just wish our civilian government spent nearly as much time and resources on social solutions to social problems
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


More info-noise.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's say that I want to have complete battlefield dominance, so I create a drone with a bunch of cameras, and it let's me see an entire town. Oh, the Taliban tries to scrabble and find cover, but by then it's too late... I've seen it. I've seen it all.
posted by codacorolla at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


As someone else said somehwere online earlier this week, the use of the misnomer "Gorgon Stare" is obviously an example of the failure of classical education in America. In other words, if this doesn't turn America's enemies to stone, then name=fail.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, does anyone know if they added encryption to the video feed? Seems like last year there were problems with insurgents intercepting Predator video feeds. This article from December 2009 says that the Reapers (which now carry this 12 camera system) used the same unencrypted system.
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:17 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, wasn't the Gorgon eventually defeated and then used to kill the king or emperor or whatnot? Is the military familiar with the myths they names things after or do they just do a quick wikipedia search?
posted by fuq at 10:21 AM on January 5, 2011


> n other words, if this doesn't turn America's enemies to stone, then name=fail.

I think it's a pretty tasteless and stupid official name for a publicly known system, but it kind of makes sense. The idea is that the enemy knows that it is being watched 100% outside, so its activities are kind of paralyzed, or turned to stone.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 AM on January 5, 2011


Groban Drone? What? Curse you, MeFi!
posted by Eideteker at 10:23 AM on January 5, 2011


Life imitates Call of Duty.
posted by swift at 10:23 AM on January 5, 2011


The Air Force is exponentially increasing surveillance across Afghanistan. The monthly number of unmanned and manned aircraft surveillance sorties has more than doubled since last January, and quadrupled since the beginning of 2009.

This is because Secretary Gates fired the last Air Force Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force because they were hoarding drones.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Panopticons are always great ideas, but only for other people.

We are at war there. I'd rather US troops know more about who they are shooting at than less.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:27 AM on January 5, 2011


I'm interested in the technology behind this project and which contractor did it. My husband used to work for a defense contractor that was heavily involved in drone video and I'm wondering whether it's the same people. I need to ask him about it.

(The best thing I ever saw out of that kind of tech was when Thomas Dolby was using it to show what he was doing with his keyboard wirelessly/simultaneously streamed to a screen where the people at the concert could see it. He said the tech he was using was originally military and he was glad to repurpose it.)
posted by immlass at 10:27 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am waiting for Operation "Poke Those Bastards In The Eye With A Sharp Stick and Give Them One In The Wedding Tackle While They Are Down"...
posted by Samizdata at 10:32 AM on January 5, 2011


immlass, I saw Dolby with that headset too! He did a "battle for sonic supremacy" with BT (who performed the entirety of This Binary Universe live). All in all, that was probably the coolest concert I've ever attended in my life.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:36 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

BB guns?
posted by odinsdream at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2011


Is it just me or should America be focussing on it's health care issues, indescribable dept and homeless people - and less on cool technology that is associated with power and destruction. From the outside, it all seems like "fiddling while Rome burned".
posted by greenhornet at 10:43 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

Mylar balloons? Kites?
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:44 AM on January 5, 2011


Coming soon to a drug war near you.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


A top-down shoot-em-up with no fog of war?

...what's the fun in that?!
posted by markkraft at 10:47 AM on January 5, 2011


Boy am I ever glad I'm on the good guys' team!

Better keep your head down and hope they don't ever question whether you belong on their team. First it's about war, then it's domestic terrorism and drugs, then border patrol, then everyday police. Before you know it, the Gorgon's gonna be busting you for making a right on red when the sign clearly indicates that you may NOT make a right on red.
posted by callmejay at 10:48 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


callmejay: Subtlety aside, that was the joke.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what. Gorgar speaks!
posted by punkfloyd at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2011



I'm interested in the technology behind this project and which contractor did it.


Normally there's a bunch of companies all working on something like this. The prime contractor seems to be Sierra Nevada Corp., and a subcontractor seems to be EMC (can't find corroborating evidence on that, though). Others include ITT, AdamWorks, Mercury Computer Systems, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (source).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:55 AM on January 5, 2011


A camera flash seemed to work pretty well against the local police helicopter, at least the few times it decided to take a general interest in myself at night.
posted by 7segment at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

Very small rocks? Pointed sticks?
posted by marxchivist at 10:59 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

Directed-energy weapons? or Anti-satellite weapons? These are of course, at this point in time, only deployable by nation states. I don't know what countermeasures 3rd world insurgents would have available to them besides digging lots of tunnels.

Another interesting facet to all this is that it seems that most of the current generation of UAV's are designed to attack or observe ground targets. I wonder when we will see the development of air to air UAV combat.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:00 AM on January 5, 2011


> Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

More seriously, probably DIY UAVs that are setup to home in on a drone's flight path and take it out with a few grams of explosives.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011


It's not just you, greenhornet. It looks that way from the inside, too.
posted by zjacreman at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


jinx
posted by Burhanistan at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2011


callmejay: Subtlety aside, that was the joke.

Um, oops. Love your username, btw.
posted by callmejay at 11:03 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

Laser pointers. In bulk.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:06 AM on January 5, 2011





Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?



Apparently it's surprisingly simple.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2011


Why were Medusa's sisters immortal but not she?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:11 AM on January 5, 2011


While I enjoy reading about all the terrifying new advances in unmanned aerial surveillance/offense, I would reading about effective counter-measures more. I love the tech behind UAVs but they portend a future that is disquieting. Constant warantless aerial surveillance? A quadracopter CCTV above every block?

I think the truth of the matter is that at some point in the future, we will all be linked, monitored and generally tracked. It's going to get to the point where it's just too easy and inexpensive to do and employers will just start mandating it, kinda like a Social Security number. It wouldn't be all bad, but it sure as hell won't be all good either.


It is also interesting to see that the US is continuing to look for technological solutions to social problems.

It's not an either/or problem. Socially and technologically, there are people who want to kill US soldiers. Naturally, the military is working on way to keep that to a minimum. That's pretty natural and understandable.

Of course, this technology will be adapted to other means i.e. keeping an eye on US cities, at some point. Yee haw? No, not really.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:14 AM on January 5, 2011


> Apparently it's surprisingly simple.

Not quite so simple. It's one thing to patch into the feed from a drone, and a whole other thing to actually foil it or assume control. Given that this system is purportedly omniscient within a given area, having the video feed open to enemies isn't going to reduce the effectiveness very much.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:14 AM on January 5, 2011


Someone somewhere is developing strategies to mitigate the effectiveness of predators/reapers/sentinel/scan eagles. What are they?

I imagine tunnels will be very popular at some point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:17 AM on January 5, 2011


Burhanistan: More seriously, probably DIY UAVs that are setup to home in on a drone's flight path and take it out with a few grams of explosives.

I suspect that groups who have the expertise available to design a surface-to-air missile and can get the necessary materials to build them probably already have them and don't need to rig something up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:19 AM on January 5, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: Of course, this technology will be adapted to other means i.e. keeping an eye on US cities, at some point. Yee haw? No, not really.

Wouldn't they just install a CCTV system if they had that in mind?
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2011


Thanks for the pointer, RikiTikiTavi. My husband was working for Sarnoff and I was wondering if this was linked with their project mentioned in the PDF you linked, but looks like it wasn't.
posted by immlass at 11:22 AM on January 5, 2011


> I suspect that groups who have the expertise available to design a surface-to-air missile and can get the necessary materials to build them probably already have them and don't need to rig something up.

Well, I was thinking that a missile launch would be instantly detected and the location targeted and the offenders killed. A UAV could be hidden in garbage or something and then remotely launched. So, even if it was detected the insurgents would likely easier escape targeting than if they just launched a missile. But, the whole 100% visibility thing makes lots of activities intractable.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:22 AM on January 5, 2011


I'm eagerly awaiting the gorgonzola stare, turning everything it spies into delicious cheese.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dear Air Force contractors: you want Argus.

Love,
an engineer who paid attention in classics class
posted by casarkos at 11:29 AM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


mrgrimm: "Why were Medusa's sisters immortal but not she"

Well, how would it be to be immortal, but headless?
posted by Samizdata at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2011


Wouldn't they just install a CCTV system if they had that in mind?

UK cities are plastered with CCTV but it didn't stop Merseyside police force from getting their own drone. Dorset police have tendered for one. The UK's SOCA have tendered for one. Essex police are testing one. Basically, its not 'instead of', its 'as well as'. They are cheaper then helicopters.
posted by biffa at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2011


Burhanistan: A UAV could be hidden in garbage or something and then remotely launched. So, even if it was detected the insurgents would likely easier escape targeting than if they just launched a missile. But, the whole 100% visibility thing makes lots of activities intractable.

Well, I'd consider a UAV that explodes a missile whether it is hand-launched or not. However, I don't realistically consider these a threat; imagine the sheer difficulty of making something that can intercept a UAV (which requires much more maneuverability than the UAV to be intercepted has) and explode. That's not something that a couple of talented amateurs can throw together in a garage. Plus, you have to make a lot of them; nobody on our side will much care if we lose a UAV here or there. You'd have destroy them pretty reliably to stop the system. And then you have to deal with the inevitable countermeasures we'd install to stop you.

Finally, if the enemy develops sophisticated missiles, I'd be much more worried about them flying them into populated areas and exploding them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2011


Was 'Argos' already in use? Medusa did not have any special powers of perception, just a butterface.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:33 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope someone developes a method to shoot down drones cheaply and easily or render them useless or whatever it takes to end their reign.

I've had more than enough of endless war.
posted by wrapper at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


We are at war there.

Huh. Here I was thinking to be at actual WAR by the rules of law Congress had to draft some articles per this thing called the Constitution.

Too bad there was not a lawyer who worked in DC who'd be able to explain it.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:41 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dear Air Force contractors: you want Argus.

Love,
an engineer who paid attention in classics class


Dear engineer guy,

Done and done.

Signed,

Guy who read the whole post
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


We are at war there. I'd rather US troops know more about who they are shooting at than less.

The linked article doesn't ever go more than a couple paragraphs without reminding everyone of the caveat we need human intelligence or this thing doesn't really work in that way. I'm reminded of the helicopter video from wikileaks--it's pretty hard to know exactly who you're looking at based on camera footage shot from some distance above.
posted by Hoopo at 11:43 AM on January 5, 2011


Coming soon to a drug war near you.

Building them has defeated the War on Povertry for the builders of military weapons.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:44 AM on January 5, 2011


or render them useless

I've been imagining some sort of ultra-cheap rig that uses optical tracking to find a drone and then paints the camera with a laser powerful enough to damage the sensor. It doesn't destroy the drone, but effectively reduces its usability by a lot.

I figure the thing would only cost a few thousand, and if made in bulk, probably a lot less.
posted by quin at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2011


More seriously, probably DIY UAVs that are setup to home in on a drone's flight path and take it out with a few grams of explosives.

Suicide drones! How brilliant and fitting. The perfect asymmetric warfare answer to drones. Love it.

Quadcopters are rapidly coming down in price and their maneuverability is rapidly increasing.

You can get a Parrot AR.Drone for $300 now. All it needs is real-time interception code and the idea becomes feasible.

I'm not saying I support bringing down drones in the current war. But the idea of DIY drone warfare is fascinating.
posted by formless at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2011


Warning on that Parrot AR.Drone link, it has autoplay video that is annoying.
posted by formless at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2011


quin: I've been imagining some sort of ultra-cheap rig that uses optical tracking to find a drone and then paints the camera with a laser powerful enough to damage the sensor. It doesn't destroy the drone, but effectively reduces its usability by a lot.

I figure the thing would only cost a few thousand, and if made in bulk, probably a lot less.


Optically tracking a drone would be hard - they're small, a long way away, and moving quickly. Just identifying them alone wouldn't be all that easy for a computer to do. The device would have to be pretty sophisticated - big lenses, a good computer, good motors, and tight manufacturing tolerances. A technological superpower might manufacture one sort of cheaply, and a moderately technical country like Iran might be able to pull it off, but it's not an easy problem and I doubt insurgents would handle it.

Plus, it gives its position away on every use, so it has to be used unmanned and and is virtually guaranteed to be destroyed once used if the drone was supported by other drones or ground forces.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:05 PM on January 5, 2011


Nah, the tracking's relatively easy. The bigger difficult is the laser; first, contrary to popular belief, laser beams do diverge, so you would need either very good optics to keep the divergence down or a really powerful laser to do any appreciable damage to a uav. Second, a laser beam seen by a camera will look like a point light. So even if you could get a really powerful laser, the damage might be localized defects rather than a total loss of image. Looking at videos on youtube of laser damage to cameras, it seems that most cameras show only local defects, while a few exceptions are totally destroyed.
posted by Pyry at 12:24 PM on January 5, 2011


It seems kinda silly to go up against technological superpower with technology. Sounds like a no win fight.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:32 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity how high are drones flying? Could a powerwasher with paint as its payload reach one?
posted by codacorolla at 1:01 PM on January 5, 2011


Cool Papa Bell: "What's next, "Death Blight"? "Plague Harvest"? "Doom Pain Kill Kill Kill Die"?

You mean Operation Commando Wrath didn't do it for you?
"

Ya know, the way the right-wing talks in this country, you'd think "Operation Jackboot Thugs from the IRS" would be an AWESOME name for a mission.
posted by symbioid at 1:21 PM on January 5, 2011


This would be quite interesting if they got some 3D laser rangefinder stuff in there, and then correlated data from several drones. They could have a live updated 3D model of several city blocks pretty easily. I mean, people are doing what are essentially the basic tech for that hacking Xbox Kinects.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:32 PM on January 5, 2011


It seems kinda silly to go up against technological superpower with technology.

Yet the superpower tech uses RF and if you can find flaws in the RF command/control system that same tech can go against them. If you have the tech to produce orbital nuclear blasts to make EMPs - that too can be a path.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2011



Directed-energy weapons? or Anti-satellite weapons? These are of course, at this point in time, only deployable by nation states. I don't know what countermeasures 3rd world insurgents would have available to them besides digging lots of tunnels.


Big, identical sombreros for everyone.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:13 PM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Better keep your head down and hope they don't ever question whether you belong on their team. First it's about war, then it's domestic terrorism and drugs, then border patrol, then everyday police. Before you know it, the Gorgon's gonna be busting you for making a right on red when the sign clearly indicates that you may NOT make a right on red.

Don't you know it. Anecdotal, but a company that I'm familiar with has been shopping around a very small UAV. My contact has had representatives from several different police agencies approach him at trade shows and inquire about purchasing units in the thousands range. Just give it a few years.
posted by indubitable at 3:41 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're naming your project something like "Gorgon Stare", that's probably a bad sign. I mean, that's got "evil supervillain" written all over it.

Next week: skull cap-badges.
posted by pompomtom at 9:09 PM on January 5, 2011


The Air Force is exponentially increasing surveillance across Afghanistan. The monthly number of unmanned and manned aircraft surveillance sorties has more than doubled since last January, and quadrupled since the beginning of 2009.

From the graph it looks like the number of sorties went from 400 to 2000. That's a pretty small exponent.
posted by Tashtego at 9:26 PM on January 5, 2011


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