Persistent Surveillance Systems is a U.S. company whose business name accurately describes the technology that they make and sell.
Imagine a science fiction novel where all public activities are constantly recorded in an entire city by law enforcement using an all-seeing “eye in the sky”.
Now further imagine technology where police can go back in time and watch the location of a crime as it happens and then track the movements of any suspected criminal(s) both before and after the crime occurred.
This gives you a pretty accurate picture of the city-wide surveillance technology that Persistent Surveillance Systems ( PSS ) builds and markets to governments and police departments.
PSS surveillance can literally take you “back to the future” to observe events for an entire metropolitan area.
This superpower surveillance is the brainchild of Ross McNutt, an M.I.T. trained technology expert, who developed the system for use in the Iraq war back in 2004 when he was in the Airforce.
Using small planes to fly around cities at 10,000 feet with 44 megapixel cameras mounted underneath, McNutt and the military were able to monitor and record all public activities in entire Iraqi cities all day long.
These plane-mounted cameras capture high resolution pictures of entire areas ( within a 40 mile radius ) at 1 second intervals and then send those pictures to a command center on the ground for chronological storage, retrieval and review in the event of attacks, bombings, crimes or other urban trouble.
Even in these high resolution images, people and vehicles only appear in a pixelated form. However, system users can tag “suspected pixels” around a location and then track them forwards and backwards in 1 second intervals to find out the places they were before the event in question and where they went afterwards.
After retiring from the Airforce, Ross McNutt came back to the U.S. and started Persistent Surveillance Systems with the intent of marketing this spy technology for domestic use.
The United States Airforce has spent over a billion dollars fine tuning the PSS technology.
PSS surveillance has been successfully tested and used to monitor attacks in war zones; track the movements of murderous drug criminals in Juarez, Mexico and solve crime cases in Dayton, Ohio.
In one criminal case in Juarez, Mexico, the PSS system recorded numerous “pixelated vehicles” that were used in the killing of a female police officer. These various pixels were then tracked back to a drug cartel’s headquarters.
This surveillance information ultimately brought down an entire Mexican drug cartel, whose leader was reportedly responsible for over 1,500 murders.
In another instance in Dayton, Ohio, police were able to solve a home burglary case within minutes by following a green pixelated van from the scene of the crime using PSS surveillance images.
McNutt estimates that the use of PSS surveillance could cut crime in U.S. cities by as much as 30 percent per year. If the technology were adopted and used by major U.S. cities, it could potentially cut the cost of crime nationwide by billions of dollars annually.
In Dayton, Ohio alone, it is estimated that PSS could save the city nearly $150 million annually.
Although the PSS system only keeps images for 90 days and doesn’t zoom in and identify people on a facial level, the technology has had a difficult time being adopted by local governments due to privacy objections from vocal citizens.
Some things to think about —
How long do you think it will be before a satellite image service like Google Earth offers persistent, chronological satellite images for public viewing, which could democratize and crowdsource the ability to observe and track crimes using everyday citizens as system monitors?
Could the increasing use of drones make the PSS system obsolete before it gains widespread acceptance by local governments?
You can find out more about Persistent Surveillance Systems on their website.