Surveillance

  • New generation of aerial robots for high-risk missions

    The need for robots able to carry out high-risk service tasks, such as the inspection of power plants and the cleaning of skyscrapers, is growing. Robots which actively interact with the environment without being constrained on the ground are well suited to such tasks.

  • Defense in terror case challenges exclusion from court session on surveillance records

    The defense for Adel Daoud, a young Muslim man who was arrested outside a Chicago bar in an undercover FBI operation and charged with attempting to blow up the bar, has submitted a motion objecting to a private court session held to discuss the defense’s access to classified   records. “Not only do I not get to be there, but I didn’t even get to object,” defense attorney Thomas Durkin said. “I had to object over the fact that I couldn’t even make an objection.”

  • NSA, other agencies, collect millions of images for large facial recognition databases

    The NSA, through its global surveillance operations, has been accumulating millions of images from communication interceptions for use in high-level facial recognition programs, according to classified 2011 documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The documents do not reveal how many people have been targeted with facial recognition programs, but given the NSA’s foreign intelligence mission, a bulk of the imagery collected would involve foreign nationals.

  • Drones offer farmers eyes in the sky to check on crop progress

    Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace was banned by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, although growing numbers of hobbyists have been toying with the use of drones, particularly for aerial photography. Facing mounting pressure from agribusiness, retail, and other industries, however, the FAA is expected to release new policies by 2015 that will enable businesses to integrate drones into their operations. The agriculture industry is expected to be one of the largest market segments for drone usage. This growing season, crop researchers at the University of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones on the university’s South Farms. A crop sciences educator is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.

  • Nature-inspired designs for drones of the future

    Based on the mechanisms adopted by birds, bats, insects, and snakes, fourteen research teams have developed solutions to some of the common problems that drones could be faced with when navigating through an urban environment and performing novel tasks for the benefit of society. Whether this is avoiding obstacles, picking up and delivering items, or improving the take-off and landing on tricky surfaces, it is hoped the solutions can lead to the deployment of drones in complex urban environments in a number of different ways, from military surveillance and search and rescue efforts to flying camera phones and reliable courier services.

  • Drone surveillance raises legal, ethical concerns

    The use of drones for domestic security purposes, surveillance of citizens, and putative criminals and organizations raises many legal and ethical concerns particularly with regard to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Council of Europe instruments, and the EU Data Protection Framework. Experts suggest that the rise of drones for surveillance and other applications highlights particular challenges to civil liberties and tensions between these and national security and justice concerns.

  • Snowden revelations spur a surge in encrypted e-mail services

    The Edward Snowden revelations about National Security Agency(N.S.A) surveillance programs have fueled a surge of new e-mail encryption services. “A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort,” said the co-developer of a new encrypted e-mail service which launched last Friday. The company notes that its servers are based in Switzerland, making it more difficult for U.S. law enforcement to reach them.

  • Wireless camera network offers new possibilities for security systems

    Advances in computer technology are opening up new possibilities for surveillance cameras and environmental video monitoring systems. A graduate engineering student used off-the-shelf components to build a prototype device for a solar-powered wireless network of smart cameras with potential applications in security systems and wildlife monitoring.

  • FAA grants NJIT permission to test UAVs

    On 8 May the FAA awarded the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) a Certificate of Waiver/Authorization (COA), making it the first New Jersey university and first public institution in the state granted permission to test the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). NJIT will use the airstrip on the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May to test the systems.

  • Wisconsin silent about cell phone tracking by state police

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice(DOJ) is refusing to acknowledge that it has deployed Stingray technology to track Wisconsin residents’ cellphones, despite reports claiming the state has used the technology during previous investigations. The state also denied a public records request made in April seeking details on how often Stingray technology is used, how data is stored and shared, and how often warrants are obtained.

  • Virginia lawmakers mull limiting police use of license plate readers

    Some Virginia lawmakers are planning to propose legislation which will limit the police use of license plate readers (LPRs). The state currently has no laws restricting how police collect or store license plate data gathered by LPRs. Last year, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he believed Virginia State Police should be restricted from capturing and storing license plate data outside of a specific, ongoing criminal investigation, but for now, police departments across the state have adopted their own measures.

  • Fairbanks, Alaska UAV test site conducts first flight test

    The Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Range Complex at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was established last year to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develop regulations and certifications for unmanned aircraft operators and equipment. The goal is to integrate them into the National Airspace System. On Monday, an Aeryon Scout mini quadcopter was the first UAV to be tested at the range. The range is the second of six UAV test sites to receive an FAA’s Certificate of Authorization.

  • U.S. approves fewer security clearances

    A new report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence(ODNI) shows that the number of new security clearances provided by the federal government, both initial clearances and renewals, has decreased by 9 percent since 2011. The number of approved clearances decreased for the second consecutive year in fiscal 2013, to just over 777,000.One observer saidthe reduction is a response to a period in the mid-2000s when “basically everyone needed a clearance.”

  • Access of Russian surveillance craft to U.S. airspace questioned

    Under the Treaty on Open Skies (OS), signed in 1992 and ratified in 2002, thirty-four nations allow the protected passage over their territory of surveillance aircraft from other OS signatory member states, aircraft featuring advanced sensory equipment that allow for the monitoring of arms controls compliance and troop movements. With rising U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine, and with information emerging about a new Russian surveillance aircraft model equipped with the most advanced surveillance capabilities, U.S. government officials and lawmakers question whether OS-related Russian surveillance flights over the United States should continue.

  • U.S. drone attacks kill at least 55 al-Qaeda militants in Yemen

    A series of U.S. drone strikes Sunday and Monday killed at least fifty-five al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The operation focused on al-Qaeda operation basecamps in the rugged mountain of the central and southern provinces of Yemen. Yemeni government sources to say that the first series of attacks, carried out on Sunday, killed three prominent al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Qaeda made gains in Yemen during the chaos which accompanied the 2011 popular uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was driven from power a year later. In the last two years, the United States and the new Yemeni government have escalated the fight against the Islamist militants.