Monday, January 11, 2010

Air Force learning to parse through 24 years worth of drone video

There's an piece in today's New York Times about the massive amounts of video collected by drones flying over Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2007, the Times reports the Air Force has collected 24 years worth of video from the drones, and is trying to figure out how to make use of it all through some of the same techniques that TV stations and YouTube uses to improve the indexing and browsibility of massive quantities of video. With over 20 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, the challenge of discovery is a big one at YouTube... so this story sounds familiar. Just like YouTube uploaders, officers assign tags to the videos to help them access the files later.

However, unlike YouTube the military gives a first scan of every video that comes in from the drones. If officers see anything that looks dangerous, they capture the image and send it to field operatives via IM. From the Times:

One [officer] never takes his eyes off the monitor, calling out possible threats to his partners, who immediately pass alerts to the field via computer chat rooms and snap screenshots of the most valuable images.

“It’s mostly through the chat rooms — that’s how we’re fighting these days,” said Col. Daniel R. Johnson, who runs the intelligence centers


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