Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LA's Surveillance Timeblades

[Image: Police Helicopters, by John Nyboer, via Polar Inertia.]

Up on Polar Inertia right now in the winter issue is a sweet little photo stream of LAPD helicopters by photographer John Nyboer who writes, “Police helicopters are an inescapable presence in Los Angeles. Near the freeways, daily accidents beckon the air patrol along with a swarm of TV news twirly-birds. In the more densely populated neighborhoods, copter blades beat the air day and night as the police respond to crimes real and imagined to probe with binoculars and spotlights. The wealthy Hills of Beverly and Hollywood are not immune to their presence: the police integrate these neighborhoods into flight patterns. Even at the beaches, LAPD and Sheriff's copters pay surprisingly close attention to sunbathers and tourists.”
This reminds me of an older post here on Subtopia which sort of situated the military helicopter patrol constantly whirling over Baghdad as the shadowy cog in a perpetual motion “War on Terror” that endlessly churns at its nexus point in the Middle East.
You’ll have to forgive me for reposting an extract from that old post here again:

“the war machine lodged in the cradle of civilization; its precision blades rotating and sweeping violently across the face of modern Baghdad like Leviathan clockhands that have seized control of history and time itself. Somehow superior to the sun’s own momentum this shadow of war remains fixed at the center of Baghdad’s image and place in time right now. The Blackhawk’s crusading swords dissect the airspace of Iraq’s temporal sovereignty delivering a chronographic-like stoppage of time across the city as the Gods of War have seen fit to hack the moment – and as if the entire metropolis were completely calibrated to the time/space dials of U.S. occupation.
However, despite curfew the Blackhawk – bound to the sky in circuitous patterns of panoptic centrifuge – is what also keeps the gears of time constantly spun. Looping barely above the earth day and night the war machine’s black glove turns a great balance wheel back and forth upon which the entire city rests. As such, Baghdad is like the militarized pacemaker for endless conflict always oscillating in and out of stability; it is a city tectonically wound over and over again for a perpetual motion War On Terror.
Look at the photo once more though and you may find it’s not even Baghdad at all. Listen carefully. Overhead the Blackhawks are circling. Nearly everywhere now from San Diego to Afghanistan the skies are filled with these propellers and others just like them synchronizing the invisible gear trains of conflict across every time zone. They are the symbolic clockworks of a wartime economy, and this image to me just seems like a giant time stamp for it all.”

Though, it may not be the LAPD helis which will reel in our concern in the future so much as the flight of this miniature drone, described as a basically a hi-tech kite armed with GPS enabled compasses and video camera which can be controlled by users on the ground. The Skyseer was sort of illegally tested by the LAPD in 2006 without proper FAA licensing, but is being hailed as a promising implement in the evolution of urban surveillance. Operates like a toy, is capable of hovering and pinpointing precise locations with its remote viewfinder, streaming video back to command stations, is cheap and lightweight, and probably the next step before even tinier robotic surveillance systems take over.
So, if you look up to the sky one day and see this toy airplane just sort of hanging out overhead, with no kids in site, be advised, you could be making an unwitting appearance on Homeland Security, USA! Make sure to wear a good disguise.


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