Futuristic security surveillance system brings Big Brother to life

DARPA system would use sophisticated software, sensors to monitor, interpret activities over large areas

DARPA's Vulture
Researchers are looking to develop an intelligent image system that can monitor large areas, perhaps miles wide,  identify potential threats based on the correlation of events and anomalies it detects, and issue timely alerts with few false alarms. 

Such a surveillance system is at the heart of what researchers at the  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency calls a Persistent Stare Exploitation and Analysis System (PerSEAS) that can automatically and interactively discover intelligence from optical or infra-red devices in the air on drones, for example, or spread over urban, suburban, and rural environments. 

DARPA said it envisions two major applications for such a system.  Perhaps most important,  the first would use the system in a near real-time mode to receive alerts and warnings to react to and avert disasters. For example, if it notices a number of activities that were out of the usual, such as the gathering of lots of soldiers and trucks it could alert local authorities. 

The second would be to use the data gathered from the system to use archived data from the system to analyze events, such as an attack to determine the movements and origins of the entities involved in the event, DARPA said.   For both types of applications DARPA said the PerSEAS system ideally could receive or generate cues from/to other sensor systems to identify places or people of interest for additional details.

Overall the challenge is to identify potential threats based on the accumulation and correlation of multiple events and anomalies, and issue alerts so military folks in the field can take quick action or other officials can alert the public of problems, DARPA said. 

Specifically the PerSEAS system will gather data from sensors and feed the data into an intelligent software engine supporting algorithms that discover relationships and anomalies that are indicative of suspicious behavior, match previously learned threat activity, or match user defined threat activity should also be incorporated, DARPA stated.

DARPA notes that in recent years, the military has fielded several optical/infra-red systems it calls Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) but is in the process of buying newer, more capable systems that will expand the deployment and development of airborne WAMI devices.   One such system, known as SWEEPER, which is short for short-range wide-field-of-view extremely-agile electronically-steered photonic emitters, uses lasers as a super-powered surveillance system. 

These new systems persistently monitor fixed geographic locations for long periods of time using electro-optic sensors. Some store their WAMI data onboard and download it at the end of each mission for post-event analysis. Others provide operational support through real-time transfer of the data, DARPA stated. 

Current efforts to exploit data from current sensor systems are mostly manual and require hours to days of painstaking analysis to produce results. The tedious nature of current exploitation capabilities limits the ability to fully utilize the available data. Consequently, critical questions go unanswered and timely threat cues are missed. PerSEAS will automatically discover potential threat activities in near real-time, as well as allow analysts to quickly validate the findings, DARPA stated.

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