…the Air Force and other military units are trying to prevent an overload of video collected by the drones, and they are turning to the television industry to learn how to quickly share video clips and display a mix of data in ways that make analysis faster and easier.
They are even testing some of the splashier techniques used by broadcasters, like the telestrator that John Madden popularized for scrawling football plays. It could be used to warn troops about a threatening vehicle or to circle a compound that a drone should attack.
â€œImagine you are tuning in to a football game without all the graphics,â€ said Lucius Stone, an executive at Harris Broadcast Communications, a provider of commercial technology that is working with the military. â€œYou donâ€™t know what the score is. You donâ€™t know what the down is. Itâ€™s just raw video. And thatâ€™s how the guys in the military have been using it.â€
Officials acknowledge that in many ways, the military is just catching up to features that have long been familiar to users of YouTube and Google.
…â€œItâ€™s mostly through the chat rooms â€” thatâ€™s how weâ€™re fighting these days,â€ said Col. Daniel R. Johnson, who runs the intelligence centers.
He said other analysts, mostly enlisted men and women in their early 20s, studied the hundreds of still images and phone calls captured each day by U-2s and other planes and sent out follow-up reports melding all the data.
…But Mark A. Bigham, an executive at Raytheon, which designed the new computer system, said the Air Force had actually moved more quickly than most intelligence agencies to create Weblike networks where data could be shared easily among analysts.
Mr. Bigham, the Raytheon executive, said the new system would help speed that process. He said it would also tag basic data, like the geographic coordinates and the chat room discussions, and alert officials throughout the military who might want to call up the videos for further study.
But while the biggest timesaver would be to automatically scan the video for trucks and armed men, that software is not yet reliable. And the military has run into the same problem that the broadcast industry has in trying to pick out football players swarming on a tackle.
So Cmdr. Joseph A. Smith, a Navy officer assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which sets standards for video intelligence, said he and other officials had climbed into broadcast trucks outside football stadiums to learn how the networks tagged and retrieved highlight film.
â€œThere are these three guys who sit in the back of an ESPN or Fox Sports van, and every time Tom Brady comes on the screen, they tap a button so that Tom Brady is marked,â€ Commander Smith said, referring to the New England Patriots quarterback. Then, to call up the highlights later, he said, â€œthey just type in: â€˜Tom Brady, touchdown pass.â€™ â€
Lt. Col. Brendan M. Harris, who is in charge of an intelligence squadron here, said his analysts could do that. He said the Air Force had just installed telestrators on its latest hand-held video receiver, and harried officers in the field would soon be able to simply circle the images of trucks or individuals they wanted the drones to follow.
But Colonel Harris also said that the drones often shot gray-toned video with infrared cameras that was harder to decipher than color shots. And when force is potentially involved, he said, there will be limits on what automated systems are allowed to do.
â€œYou need somebody whoâ€™s trained and is accountable in recognizing that that is a woman, that is a child and that is someone whoâ€™s carrying a weapon,â€ he said. â€œAnd the best tools for that are still the eyeball and the human brain.â€
2010-01-11 06:27:39 UTC