DARPA’s 1.8 gigapixel ARGUS-IS: The Ultimate Surveillance System from above?


In the last decade, Remote Sensing resolutions be it spatial or temporal have been getting better and better. Most satellite missions these days have spatial resolution at least in the order of few meters and RADAR satellite missions are able to generate spatial resolutions that are even better than that. But all of this seems “old” in comparison to DARPA’s 1.8 gigapixel ARGUS-IS short for Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System. 

ARGUS-IS is being viewed as the ultimate surveillance camera that can help monitor an entire city from 20,000 feet above our heads and on a real-time video basis for an area of 8 Kilometers with resolutions of about 6 inches or 15 centimeters!


Now 15 centimeters seems like not too much considering you cannot quite read number plates or recognize facial features but this Super Camera from BAE Systems is actually recording every move you make. When this is combined with information from CCTV cameras, “They” can pretty much know where you are at any given time! ARGUS-IS is surely a surveillance system for the entire city.


1.8 gigapixels and 12 frames/second, 24/7! Wow! That is surely going to be a lot of data. I am a lousy mathematics student so googled some reports in the internet and that value is about 6,000 terabytes of data/imagery per day. How exactly do you process 6,000 terabytes of data? According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory processing, here’s how you do it – Read here. I even wonder if we will have the technology (in the civilian domain) to send and receive 6000 TB of data in a day using wireless communication in the near future. 


Well, I am sure that there are a lot of people who are worried about their privacy and as to how these technologies are going to be used. That’s an entirely different debate and one that I don’t want to go into. Like the saying goes, the military is always 20 years ahead of the civilian. Nevertheless, in the past we have seen several such technologies being put to good use in the civilian domain. I agree with the article “Drones Making a Lot of Sense for Geo-spatials: Thanks to the Military Again” that Iyke posted sometime back in this regard. What do you think?


I am one of those passionate "Geo-geeks" and "Geo-people" who is just too excited about everything Geo and Management. Location information and spatial technologies are just too big to take a back seat and watch them revolutionize the world. Always curious and looking for ways to innovate, I guess that it comes naturally by the gene pool I inherited from an engineer Mom and a researcher Dad.