Military Asks ESPN to help Analyze Drone Footage

December 28th, 2012



Distopian sci-fi from The Hunger Games to Robot-Jox have speculated about fascist allegiances between media and military to produce gladiator style blood sports for our entertainment, but what if they got the gladiator part wrong? What if it turned out that audiences preferred watching innocent victims blown to pink mist from the sky? No rules. No games. No pretense of parity between two competing sides. Just indiscriminate slaughter. And why not? It’s already going on. The only question is, are the American people so desensitized that they could hold candle light vigils for the deaths of their own, but watch the deaths of others for entertainment. I think so. At least for some of us. And if a proposed arrangement between sports news giant ESPN and the US Military works out, we may be one step down that road.

The problem with government surveillance is always sifting through the data (and covering their tracks when the sociocrats do something nasty themselves.) They can log every keystroke, encrypted or not, but actually differentiating signal from noise is tricky business. ”They’re looking at anything and everything,” said Air Force Col. Mike Shortsleeve, commander of a unit that monitors drone videos. That’s a lot of footage.

With thousands of drones in the air, both foreign and domestic, the Air Force (and CIA) are collecting thousands of hours of video footage. 327,384 hours last year. Most of it is mundane – A Sunday afternoon BBQ in Ohio, or harmless goat herding in Afghanistan, but some of it… likely less that 1% is actually useful to national security analysts.

So, the Air Force is asking for help from experts at ESPN, with their instant replay, real time analysis and extensive archiving capabilities to help organize and analyze the avalanche of footage transmitted from unmanned aerial drones.

Air Force officials have met with ESPN to help develop training and expertise. They’re hoping to replace the hours that analysts must stare at a wall of monitors with a technological solution. The video arrives at the Langley, Air Force base from drones being piloted all around the world, but the footage must be assessed based on other types of intelligence data, such as still photos or intercepted communications. Think of it like compiling averages and performance stats on every potential target in the world, the way ESPN does with athletes now.

Once that process is automated, and drone operators enjoy real time analysis of every target everywhere, how long before the good folks at ESPN figure out how to make a sporting event of it?

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About the Author: Davi Barker

In grade school Davi refused to recite the pledge of allegiance because he didn't understand what it meant. He was ordered to do as he was told. In college he spent hours scouring through the congressional record trying to understand this strange machine. That's where he discovered Dr. Ron Paul. In 2007 he joined the End The Fed movement and found a political home with the libertarians. The Declaration of Independence claims that the government derives its power “from the consent of the governed." He does not consent.