The United States government is looking for technical help to spy on people from the sky. Specifically, U.S. intelligence agencies are requesting proposals for technology that can help identify people through how they look and how they move from a distance, including using drones to track people above and through various weather conditions as part of the Biometric Recognition and Identification at Altitude and Range (BRIAR) program.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (IARPA), the BRIAR program “aims to develop software algorithm-based systems capable of performing whole-body biometric identification at long-range and from elevated platforms. ” By deploying such technology atop watch towers or in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), BRIAR hopes to expand the range of conditions in which accurate and reliable identification could be made.
Proposals can be sent to the IARPA site here. Submissions are due by February 24.
It is hoped that obstacles created by the weather, such as turbulence which could rattle a UAV, or clouds or precipitation, could be dealt with so a device can peer down onto people to identify and track them.
The government deploys UAVs in different ways. Known for their military options in drone battles, UAVs are also used to track storm systems and to get vital atmospheric data where satellite data or crewed reconnaissance aircraft can’t efficiently reach.
If the goals of BRIAR are realized through improved technology, a drone would be able to fly in or above rough weather but still identify and track people on the ground based on their appearance or how they move. Whether it’s a prisoner who has escaped from a prison with a limp, or scanning a park for people that aren’t properly socially distanced or masked, such technology could be used by intelligence and law enforcement to identify and track people without requiring headcount on the ground. And because UAVs can stay airborne for a significant amount of time, they can scan large areas without the need for refueling.