How the US Military’s Latest Surveillance Technology Was Inspired by Hollywood
A Q&A with ‘Eyes in the Sky’ author Arthur Holland Michel
A new type of aerial surveillance, enabled by rapid advances in imaging and computing technology, is quietly replacing traditional drone video cameras. Wide-area motion imaging (WAMI) aims to capture an entire city within a single image, giving operators a God-like view in which they can follow multiple incidents simultaneously, and track people or vehicles backward in time.
Arthur Holland Michel, founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone, a research institute at Bard College in New York, has written a new book about WAMI called Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All. This fascinating history details WAMI’s development by researchers at a national lab, its deployment by the US military, and its arrival as a crime-fighting tool—and possibly privacy nightmare—in the skies above America.
IEEE Spectrum talked with Michel prior to the publication of his book. What follows is transcript of that interview, lightly edited for clarity and length.