Eye In The Sky To Protect Us

by Diane Dimond on August 16, 2008

Ever since I saw secret agent Maxwell Smart take off his shoe and use it as a telephone I’ve been fascinated by the array of ‘toys’ available to law enforcement. So, as I was flipping through Tactical Weapons Magazine the other day (hey, no telling where an intrepid columnist gets her information!) there, among ads for special ops shotguns and mini night vision monoculars, was the strangest contraption I’d ever seen. The headline read: Mini Blimp Recon. Huh?

It looked like a cross between a suspended-in-the-sky Michelin Man and a big white, over inflated football with a tail. The technical name is BLN-3 Mini Blimp, its nickname is TopEyeView and to this civilian it could mean a revolution in law enforcement. Simply put this 30 foot long tethered blimp flies 500 feet in the air and carries on its belly a powerful, state-of-the-art revolving robotic camera. It goes without saying that it can provide panoramic wide shots of crime scenes, highways and public gatherings. What’s most interesting is the camera on this little dynamo is so powerful it can spot a human sized target up to four miles away and actually recognize the person from up to 2 miles. TopEyeView can zero in on a car sized target that’s 8 miles from its location and if the angle is right it can read the license plate from up to 4 miles away.

Think of the savings to police departments! No more blanketing an area with armies of officers on overtime. Just launch the blimp, activate its streaming video function to download to any command center within 10 miles and ONE operator/officer with a joystick can help specialized ground troops zero in on where they need to go.

A bank robbery? This eye-in-the-sky can direct police cruisers to exact roadblock sites no matter how many twists and turns the getaway car makes.

A natural disaster strikes? TopEyeView’s team on the ground can be up and operational in as little as 20 minutes and can pinpoint the precise location from which survivors of a flood or tornado need to be rescued. If looting breaks out the blimp can isolate the criminals on camera and immediately download the high resolution video profiles to a DVD. What prosecutors would give for that in court!

TopEyeView could be deployed after a highway pileup to help determine immediately how many ambulances are needed and the best route for first responders to get to the injured.

Or, say, there’s a need for surveillance at a public demonstration, a parade or an event like the Superbowl. This helium filled reconnaissance eye-in-the-sky could help keep the peace – or assist restoring order – by pinpointing exact trouble spots.

It seems like such a simple idea, one Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 would immediately embrace and exploit.

I got to meet the CEO of TopEyeView recently during a demonstration he staged for the U.S. Military. Tamir Sagie, originally from Israel, speaks passionately about the many uses for his simple yet diverse product. It also has military and intelligence applications, he told me, and he’s already been approached by American television networks hungry for less expensive aerial footage of major events – think a visit by the Pope or a Presidential inauguration. Sending up a fossil fuel burning helicopter can cost as much as 40 thousand dollars. Sagie will lease TopEyeView for a quarter of that amount and deliver 8 full hours of Hi Def video for the price. (www.topeyeview.com)

But back to law enforcement. This technology is already a staple in Israel, England, France, Russia, Poland, Australia, Brazil and Angola. In the United States the Atlanta Police Department was so impressed with the blimp’s capabilities it decided to buy a set-up for itself. Cost: about 300 thousand dollars. City Fathers decided with more than 50 major events in Atlanta each year TopEyeView would be more cost effective than all that overtime pay for boots on the ground.

For cities that don’t need or can’t afford a blimp of their own TopEyeView can be leased for from 8 to 15 thousand dollars a day.

Too much money you say?

Consider this – the annual overtime budget for many mid-sized town’s law enforcement efforts easily reaches the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 million dollars each year. Think of how much of that money could be saved with a dedicated eye-in-the-sky. And who knows, it could also save lives and cut the crime rate too.

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