1. says

    This clip was from the PBS Nova program “Rise of the Drones” that was broadcast last week. That is a rather provocative title (and a bit scary) since it is a takeoff on the title “Terminator: Rise of the Machines”. The show also talked about making unmanned aerial vehicles that could operate automatically.

    You can stream thje whole show on-line

  2. Bill says

    The reason they covered it up is that the trick for making this work probably involves the optics: if it were in the chip, who cares if you see it as the feature size is too small to be visible.

    They could be using speckle interferometry or adaptive optics to minimize what astronomers call “seeing” (atmospheric turbulence that results in stars appearing to jiggle around due to changes in the index of refraction, which is a noticeable problem for large telescopes). They might also have a possibly rotating hologram, similar in principle to what is used in some bar-code scanners to make a laser beam “sweep” across a bar code held up to the scanner. Holograms can reflect light in multiple directions, which could be useful in this case.

    Functionally, it appears to work like several hundred cameras, each pointing in different directions, and each with a telephoto lens on it.
    To do that literally might be far too awkward, so the trick is to get the same effect with a different optical design.

    I’d be surprised if they did something as simple as using a single large lens and gluing a bunch of chips together to act like a large one: the boundaries between chips would degrade the image at various points.

    Purely in case anyone is interested, the way astronomers would get high quality images with ground-based telescopes (the ones you typically see in pictures of an observatory) is to point the telescope in more or less the right direction and then pick a “guide star”. An operator would then fiddle with the controls to keep the guide star at the same position in the field of view. Very faint stars or other objects that would only be seen on film after very long exposures would then be seen with better resolution as the operator would compensate for atmospheric changes (the rotation of the earth can be handled automatically as that is predictable). Obviously, handling this automatically is preferred, hence the interest in adaptive optics and other techniques.

  3. ratbastard says

    The military and intelligence agencies have technology that’s not even talked about publicly. It’s amazing how advanced some of the stuff is.

    And yes, there really is no place to hide. Privacy is a thing of the past.

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