A couple of years ago I wrote an article explaining how you, average person in life, are most likely being photographed numerous times without your knowledge. You are being caught as people take photos of the street with their camera phone, and perhaps even intentionally if you happen to be wearing something amusing or do something that attracts attention — or maybe you are the object of someone’s crush on your shared daily commute.

Well now the United States Army is taking things one step further — making a helicopter drone that will be able to take 1.8 gigapixel photographs from above — the perfect panopticon.

The technology is based on a 1.8 gigapixel camera – the largest video sensor used in tactical missions.

The Argus-IS system offers the army wider fields of view than had been possible using earlier equipment It offers 900 times the number of pixels of a 2 megapixel camera found in some mobile phones. The system can provide real-time video streams at the rate of 10 frames a second.

The army said that was enough to track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet (6.1km) across almost 65 square miles (168 sq km).

Right now, the technology is being deployed in Afghanistan to further military goals there, however it is not too far a stretch of the imagination to project into the future where this kind of technology might take us. It takes us straight into the heart of the Orwellian nightmare described in 1984, where the government was aware of every person, every movement, and every action — and was able to control the people through this awareness.

Imagine going to the bank to withdraw some money, only to find yourself being tracked by an airplane far above because you withdrew more money than acceptable for an average person that month, that year — what would you be doing with that much money? Perhaps you were about to go and purchase illegal drugs? Only one way to find out — follow you with the camera until it was clear that you were not going to do anything illegal. A couple of weeks would be good enough.

If this panopticonic nightmare comes to haunt the people of your city, know that you will never have any escape from it and that you may well kiss goodbye any ideas of privacy that you have ever had.


  1. Frightening story, Gordon. I wonder what it will take to restore some semblance of privacy in a world in which no government eye dare blink again?

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