Back in the day (1983), there was a movie Blue Thunder, about military surveillance tech on a helicopter, turned towards the civilian sector. (It spawned a couple of TV series: Blue Thunder and Airwolf.)
It also involved a lot of shoot-things-up hardware, but that’s hopefully besides the point.
Here in Northern Greater Toronto, living between two local parks, I do get a chance to observe York Region police helicopters as they cruise the local parks on weekends, on nights with perfect flying weather. One thing that struck me one night when a helicopter was doing an orbit of a local park is that those things have advanced low-noise tech. Rather than a house-rattling old school WAP-WAP-WAP, it was a hushed wuff-wuff-wuff. I was in awe of the engineering that must have required. Of course, police conducting operations without waking the neighborhood is a good thing, right?
And then there’s the FLIR night vision camera system. Here’s the footage as they close in on some 16-year-old candy thieves at an amusement park:
Pretty amazing footage eh? It seems to be a high quality passive IR system, although I expect that they have some kind of IR illuminators if they need them. In this case, the crime had been reported by the park security, and they had probable cause to switch on the IR gear and search. But what are their rules for scanning and recording? I suspect that it’s on when they scan the local parks for teenagers getting up to no good on a Saturday night. Do they switch it off when they fly over the houses between parks? Doubt it. Is that some kind of search that butts heads with constitutional limits? Probably hell yes.
Just saying. (No, I have no idea if they are black helicopters.)
Basically, it’s live footage, 24/7 from high altitude planes. They’ve already deployed it in at least one US city without asking the public first.
This kind of tech can literally see everything that goes on outside of buildings at all times for an entire city. If there’s a breach, it’d be trivial for you to figure out where everyone in the city lived, just by tracking them and their vehicles.
Originally the tech was developed during the US’s wars in the middle east. The application was, as soon as a roadside bomb went off, they could track back in time to the last vehicle at the bomb’s position, then track forward to see where the bombers went, then command sends a unit to get some kills on the board.
Not to get too black-helicopter on you, but your whole life is being surveilled by multiple entities both governmental and private all the time, and there’s literally no way to avoid it besides living on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Everyone is. It’s almost part of the social contract now. Cradle to grave, ad companies will watch where you go, what you buy, who you talk to, and will use that to “enhance your experience”.
Oh 100% agreed! Police here don’t use helicopters AFAIK but I’ve noticed the noise reduction you describe on other kinds of helicopters here over the years.
Even consumer available IR has gotten pretty amazing. Don’t know if its as good as the video example you included. Maybe it just comes down to price? Its the sort of thing that if I was wealthy I’d love to have in a tool box but can’t justify on its own sake.
Does anyone but me ever feel some nostalgia for back when black helicopter conspiracy talk was still borderline interesting and fun?
No offense, but social contract my ass. It’s imposed by unaccountable authorities taking more and more power through fear-mongering like the “PATRIOT” Act. Citizens didn’t sign up for this unless one broadens the definition of social contract to include whatever you’re not willing to wage war against you’ve implicitly agreed to. Contract implies some kind of bilateral and at least somewhat equitable exchange of agreements. The surveillance state is just plain old totalitarianism in a snazzy modern suit.
Situational awareness doesn’t get switched off once the it’s in place. It becomes part of the toolkit and if it’s good tech it is next to impossible to remove. Like giving somebody 20/20 vision after being blind. That is exactly what the US military via FlIR has done for law enforcement.
FLIR makes products for drones too. So, when you here that buzz outside your window say ‘cheese!’ and don’t drop the towel!
Here is the thing…many technological advances are made through military engineering. Eventually that technology moves past military only use and into civilian/corporate uses as well. Much of it is mundane: velcro, super glue, the Jeep, the hospital bed, GPS, microwave ovens, duct tape, penicillin, radar, nylon, wristwatches, drones, etc.
Using thermal imaging (as well as other imaging filters) isn’t new, but it seemed cutting edge in the early 80’s when Blue Thunder came out (which was modeled after the at the time cutting edge Apache - though it was not actually an Apache, it was a French copter). We are 30 years post-early 80’s now. I do not feel like this stuff is all that high tech, nor is it cutting edge any longer.
Do we as a society want the police using modern military tech as a part of daily patrol? I’d say no. But we also should want them to evolve beyond this too…
I recall reading about the Taliban carrying mattresses over their heads during the night to try and evade drones with heat sensors. It would be more comfortable than a mylar jacket but who wants to carry around a mattress all the time?