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LUMISTAR INFRARED IMAGING NEWS

By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

May 15, 2013

Drones Use Infrared to Identify Civilians With Guns

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

In what has become a growing controversy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to push the boundaries on what constitutes invasion of privacy vs. catching criminal acts via aerial drones.  As the debate heats up and  more information comes to light as to whether these drones used for civilian purposes will be armed with some kind of ammunition such as the hellfire missile, citizens and advocacy groups are becoming concerned whether military drones will be used lethally in a non-combative situation on U.S. citizens.

In March, NBC News uncovered a confidential 16-page Justice Department memo that concluded the U.S. government may execute a drone strike on American citizens if the government believes the suspect to be either a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.”  The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained and revealed a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s drone requirements through a Freedom of Information Act request. CNET found a  copy that included all the text.

The technology of the drones used for civilian use, referred in the documents above, is of  interest.  These docs state the Department of Homeland Security has an unmanned drone fleet with technology that can ‘root out civilians who are carrying guns’.  Homeland Security design requirements specify that its Predator B drones “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” and must be equipped with “interception” systems capable of reading cell phone signals.

What does this have to do with thermal infrared imaging?  The answer is simply put: when a drone has the capability to find something at “night” it is usually involves thermal infrared imaging. Occasionally near-infrared (NIR) is used, and on helicopters at lower altitudes with less expensive equipment night-vision technology is used, which is the greenish looking video used in night-vision goggles and scopes. But large drones like the Predator B are at high altitudes to go undetected therefore use thermal imaging.

To explore this idea further, it wouldn’t be an X-ray camera on board the Predator B because of the lack of current technology due to the energy needed and the radiation danger to the public. It wouldn’t be a normal visual camera as it can’t see at ‘night’ even with LED on a zoom lens. It wouldn’t be a  the greenish night-vision camera (a notch below near-infrared ‘NIR’ or two notches below thermal imaging)  because it couldn’t clearly see if someone is holding a weapon even with a zoom at high altitude. It also couldn’t tell if someone has a bomb or many other weapons.  The only technology as is the opinion of this author is thermal imaging. Thermal imaging is the only camera that can ‘see’ through the atmosphere in multitude of conditions and ascertain a weapon is being held due to the differential in temperature of cold steel and the surrounding air. A thermal camera can spot a weapon if someone was holding it in their hand or even possibly under their clothing or other concealment. Of course a ‘zoom lens‘, as the gov puts it in their response to public inquiry, is critical in this procedure and the only thing gov officials will confirm can achieve this feat.  Add the assist of an on-board computer to identify weapon-of-type and you got a militarized civilian-use piece of hardware – Predator B.

More: http://bit.ly/13HyA47
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6 Comments

  1. Remind me not to go out at night. That is all.

    Comment by Johnny Appleseed — May 15, 2013 @ 11:39

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  3. Everybody remembers before all this happened, modern life seems very complex.

    Comment by Summer Ballard — May 31, 2013 @ 13:31

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  5. How is this the future…

    Trackback by green bean — July 28, 2013 @ 06:17

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  7. Just read – Drones Designed to Identify U.S. Civilians Carrying Guns « Lumistar: Thermal Imaging Blog

    Comment by Reducewaste — October 5, 2013 @ 11:49

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    Comment by JJsimo — October 19, 2013 @ 19:50

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