Can Reality TV Producers Help Air Force Drone Wars?
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Targeted ground station at Survivor South Pacific
Flooded with an ever-increasing volume of images, U.S. military commanders in charge of drone surveillance have turned to an unexpected source for answers.
Operators of unmanned aircraft are currently collecting more than 10,000 hours a month of footage that needs to be assessed and analyzed for intelligence purposes. This massive inflow of information, which is expected to grow even larger, has overwhelmed the current system in place for reviewing the data.
So the military went to the RAND Corporation for answers. And the RAND Corporation turned to Hollywood for help: specifically, producers of reality television series.
RAND experts found that the task of reality TV producers isn’t that much different from those overseeing America’s fleet of drones. Programs like “Survivor South Pacific” and “Jersey Shore” amass thousands of hours of footage, all of which must be reviewed in order to collect the most scintillating moments for viewers. The think tank asked the producers about their process and came away with four suggestions for the military.
One recommendation said the U.S. Air Force may want to model their ground stations, where drone footage is reviewed, after a TV control room. This would entail arranging the room with one giant bank of screens at the front, with individual drone operators facing their own screen as well. Supervisors and operators would be able this way to see everything that’s coming in to reduce the risk of a key image being overlooked.
Other recommendations included replacing networked chat rooms with communication by headset, tagging scenes of interest to make them easier to organize and retrieve, and, most important of all, creating ground stations that focus on just one area of surveillance each so that personnel become familiar with specific regions.
To Learn More:
Jersey Shore, Meet Robot War: How Reality TV Could Fix Drone Data Glut (by Katie Drummond, Wired)
The Future of Air Force Motion Imagery Exploitation: Lessons from the Commercial World (by Lance Menthe, Amado Cordova, Carl Rhodes, Rachel Costello and Jeffrey Sullivan, RAND Corporation) (pdf)
Air Force Drones Allowed to Record U.S. Citizens in U.S. (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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