Print 12 comment(s) - last by ikkeman2.. on Oct 22 at 2:22 AM

DARPA contract is for video indexing system

The U.S. military is relying on an increasing amount of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct both strike and observation missions without putting U.S. armed forces personnel at risk. Many of the UAV's are used in observational roles where they stream real-time footage of battles or situations required close observation.

Video captured by UAVs is sent to U.S. intelligence personnel to be analyzed for insights into what enemy combatants or persons of interest are doing, who they are meeting with, and where they are going.

We know the UAV can stream the real-time footage to operators, but the exact capabilities of the UAV have remained largely unknown for many reasons. DARPA has put out a new contract with a description that hints at some of the capabilities of the UAV.

The contract description is for a contractor to develop a method of indexing video shot by UAVs from the air and the program is apparently called VIRAT. According to the description the contractor would be developing ways to index video based on activities including, but not limited to a single person digging, loitering, picking up, throwing, exploding/burning, carrying, shooting, launching and doing other activities.

Video would also be sorted into person-to-person categories like following, meeting, gathering, moving as a group, dispersing, shaking hands, kissing, exchanging objects and more. Other categories would include various person to vehicle interactions, person to facility interactions, vehicle activities like accelerating, shooting, and others. VIP activities like convoy, parade, troop formations, and others are included in the description as well.

Part of the reasoning for being able to sort video quickly by the U.S. military and security organizations are described in a DARPA paper and quoted by The Washington Post. The paper said, "The U.S. military and intelligence communities have an ever increasing need to monitor live video feeds and search large volumes of archived video data for activities of interest due to the rapid growth in development and fielding of motion video systems."

The first phase of the contract was won by a company called Kitware in conjunction with 9 other companies and universities. The initial phase is worth $6.7 million and is not expected to conclude until 2011.

The Washington Post reports that the resolution of video systems ranges from four inches to a foot depending on the collector and the weather at the time. Video shot from UAVs is shaped by the angle of the aircraft to the ground and software is available to allow viewers to manipulate video to see objects from different vantage points.

According to The Washington Post, there are also systems that allow UAVs to track moving targets under a forest canopy or other cover and determine their exact location. Systems are under development that would allow the identification of specific individuals from facial recognition and gait.

Analysts today have a wealth of video data to watch for suspicious behavior. Future video systems will provide even more information analysts need to view. DARPA describes one use of the video indexing system as allowing an analyst looking for U-turning cars to check archived video of cars making U-turns before a previous attack. The full capabilities of the UAV surveillance system are likely much more than what the contract describes.

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Solar UAV.
By jadeskye on 10/21/2008 11:38:23 AM , Rating: 2
That Solar UAV in the picture is one snazzy piece of kit!

RE: Solar UAV.
By JKflipflop98 on 10/21/2008 1:04:30 PM , Rating: 2
The UAV in the pic is Helios. Produced and built by nasa, it can stay airborne forever. It's truly amazing what the NASA boys can come up with.

RE: Solar UAV.
By homebredcorgi on 10/21/2008 1:39:45 PM , Rating: 3
Too bad the NASA Helios crashed.

In regards to the article, reading into a DARPA RFP wont tell you much about the current state of technology (or even the future state, for that matter). DARPA's outlook is 15-25 years into the future. For every product initially developed by DARPA, there are a dozen others that will leave you scratching your head wondering what in the hell they were thinking.

RE: Solar UAV.
By Samus on 10/22/2008 1:24:26 AM , Rating: 3
The Helios MK2 and MK3 have had a completely flawless service record since initial service began in late 2004, after the original failed over Hawaii.

It turned out the wing structure wasn't strong enough to handle some of the turbulances that can be experienced at low altitudes over the pacific ocean. This was corrected by using stronger composite material (presumably carbon fiber) as the original skeleton was an aluminum airfoil. Nasa budget during 2001-2002 are a direct result of the low quality materials used.

In other words, the concept, programming, navigation system and power generation systems have always been flawless. The simple excuse is it could have been perfect from the beginning had there been enough money. We didn't start losing astronauts until there wasn't enough money, either.

Intelligence targets
By hellokeith on 10/21/2008 12:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
You'll notice most of the index desirables are human intelligence related. Satellite imagery can give you topography, military/industrial/civil structures, and even large vehicle/troop movement. UAV's excel at getting the smaller interactions of people on the ground. No doubt that DIA/CIA analysts don't want to have to watch all 10 hours of grainy black and white nightvision video to get that 5 minute handshake/handoff between individual terrorist group members.

RE: Intelligence targets
By headbox on 10/21/2008 2:05:36 PM , Rating: 1
lack of "HUMINT" lead to 9-11. You can't spy on the enemy with only spy drones and electronic eavesdropping.

RE: Intelligence targets
By Mojo the Monkey on 10/21/2008 5:05:50 PM , Rating: 2
thanks for the insightful soundbite, commissioner. [sarcasm]

RE: Intelligence targets
By jimbojimbo on 10/21/2008 3:07:18 PM , Rating: 2
From my experience in Iraq certain UAVs always have at least one person usually two watching the video feed to determine if something is worth continuing to watch or to move on. So yes, they do have to watch all 10+ hours of video feed although it seems people's conceptions of the quality of a UAV feed is way off. It's much better than they seem to show in movies or in games.

RE: Intelligence targets
By FITCamaro on 10/21/08, Rating: -1
By Spacecomber on 10/21/2008 7:05:07 PM , Rating: 3
Total Information Awareness

Yes, I've been watching "The Last Enemy" on PBS.

By ikkeman2 on 10/22/2008 2:22:37 AM , Rating: 2
next comes the RFP for an total immersion virtual reality that will allow observers to "walk through" the virtual world constructed by the sensor fusion of sattelite, uav, manned hardware and intelligence gathering. - the matrix is born.

Next comes the rfp for an central computational intelligence to handle the fusing of all the data streams and extract strike missions from it's input - followed by this system directly controlling the strike hardware - enter Skynet

Yeah - i know, I'm a pessimist. But I can still smile!

By nugundam93 on 10/21/2008 11:35:28 AM , Rating: 1
Ghost V-9s ftw! or Simon, John, Peter with the Judah system unlocked.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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