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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Military-grade drone will fly over San Diego next year

    Military-grade drone will fly over San Diego next year

    ]An MQ-9B SkyGuardian prepares to taxi at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota in 2018. The SkyGuardian will conduct test flights over San Diego in 2020.
    (Airman 1st Class Elora Martinez/ U.S. Air Force)

    The SkyGuardian has advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities along with a 79-foot wingspan

    DEC. 26, 2019 5 AM

    The skies are clear for a local defense contractor planning to test fly large military drones over San Diego next year.

    Poway-based defense contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., in partnership with NASA, developed SkyGuardian drones, which it says are improved versions of the Predator, its military drones associated with the War on Terror.

    People involved in the demonstration next year say the SkyGuardian — a drone with a 79-foot wingspan and surveillance capabilities of over 2,000 feet— will be used for “mapping of critical infrastructure” in the San Diego region. The path and location of the flights were not disclosed.

    General Atomics’ goal is to integrate SkyGuardian drones into American skies in a variety of ways in coming years. A test flight in San Diego will figure prominently in demonstrating the drones’ civilian capabilities, the company said.

    “Accomplishing this goal could open the skies to a multitude of missions that could be carried out using large (drones), including broader support for first responders contending with natural disasters such as floods and forest fires,” a General Atomics spokesperson said in a statement.

    Some city officials and tech experts say they were not aware of the initiative.

    Two City Council members, Monica Montgomery and Chris Ward, said they did not know about the initiative and wouldn’t comment on it. The other seven members of the council directed the Union-Tribune to other city officials or chose not to comment.

    The SkyGuardian (sometimes called the MQ-9B or Predator B) is a relatively new product by General Atomics. Small adjustments were made to the Predator design to make the drone compliant with regulations for American flight paths. General Atomics advertises its unmanned aircraft as “civilian airspace compliant.”

    A General Atomics fact sheet says the drone can be used for firefighting, border patrol and humanitarian assistance by various government agencies. The fact sheet also says the SkyGuardian’s intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities were developed to support a variety of homeland security and other non-military roles.

    “Predator B is closely associated with military missions, the air vehicle performance and sensor-carrying capabilities it offers make the airframe a natural choice for a wide spectrum of non-military uses,” the fact sheet said.

    ]Chris Gummo, center, and Daniel Long, both mechanics with General Atomics, plugged power cords into a Predator B, one of five unmanned aircraft, provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine at Fort Drum, N.Y. in 2009. Customs and Border Protection were testing the Predator B for use along the U.S.-Canadian border. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth) (AP/ HEATHER AINSWORTH)
    (Heather Ainsworth/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

    While General Atomics’ press release said the city supports the initiative, there is no city official overseeing the test flight, according to the city’s public information officer. Instead, a branch within San Diego’s Economic Development Corporation, a privately funded non-profit focused on bringing jobs into the region, is helping support the drone initiative on behalf of the city.

    The branch is the federal Integrations Pilot Program (IPP), which oversees the use of drones by agencies in San Diego County. It is supposed to connect General Atomics with potential clients who are interested in the “survey opportunities” the test flight will offer, officials said.

    The Integrations Pilot Program’s Project Manager, Katelyn McCauley, said that while General Atomics is not an IPP partner, it supports the initiative because of the company’s long history with drones.

    The general intention, she said, is not to create mistrust with the public. The defense contractor does not intend to surveil people, she said, and there is no intention to sell military-grade drones to law enforcement agencies.

    “They (the drones) do have some capabilities for law enforcement, but none of it is pertaining to surveilling,” McCauley said. “It’s a very strong, hard line here in San Diego, as well as in the country, that drones are not to be used for surveillance purposes. Just because the capability exists, (it does not) mean we are encouraging any of our partners to use that capability.”

    A list of partners that have agreed to the SkyGuardian test flight was not provided.

    An article by Defense One said General Atomics officials want the SkyGuardian in American skies by 2025. Company officials, when asked questions by the Union-Tribune, would not confirm that timeline and declined to respond to follow-up questions.

    The company said in a June press release that it has conducted more than 100 test flights of the SkyGuardian worldwide to demonstrate its inspection and surveillance capabilities.

    Some privacy experts are sounding alarms about the drones’ capabilities, especially if it will fly in American skies.

    Lucy Suchman, an expert in human-computer interactions, including drones, said in an interview that having a drone with the SkyGuardian’s capabilities in urban skies like San Diego’s is “bizarre.”

    Companies like General Atomics, she said, are selling surveillance technology to non-military buyers by claiming the public should feel “tremendously insecure.” She called that message dangerous.

    “There are commercial interests who want to promote and expand these technologies and are very irresponsibly looking for areas of application where they can claim these technologies are solutions to (a) problem,” said Suchman, a professor of anthropology science and technology at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

    On the other hand, she said, an argument could be made for drones’ use in emergency situations —like fires — when waiting for satellite imagery would not be practical.

    Technologist Seth Hall, who organizes the local advocacy group TechLEAD San Diego, said the public was kept in the dark on other occasions when the region has implemented surveillance technology. He sees a similar pattern with the SkyGuardian.

    “This is just the latest of examples on how surveillance technology is invisibly deployed,” Hall said. “Whenever we discover it we’re told, ‘Don’t worry about it. We got it. Everything will be fine.’ It starts to feel like we’re a frog in a pot of water, and we’re thinking ‘the temperature is not too bad.’ I just don’t know if the public knows how quickly this intrusive surveillance technology escalates.”

    The San Diego Police Department was at the center of controversy earlier this year over the $30 million smart street lights initiative, which was proposed to City Council in 2016 as a way to reduce energy. The lights’ smart sensors record and collect data on parking, vehicle and pedestrian counts, air temperature and pressure, and humidity. They also record video.

    A year after the smart lights’ implementation, San Diego police were using it as a crime-solving tool, drawing criticism from some who noted that law enforcement’s use was not discussed in public nor approved by city officials in advance. Three city council members called for a moratorium on the program.

    This time the San Diego Sheriff’s Department says it is not interested in using drones like the SkyGuardian. And San Diego police Captain Jeff Jordon said he had not heard about the SkyGuardian but believes the public would not react well to a military-drone above the city.

    “People are concerned about the smart street lights, so I can only imagine how they would feel about these,” Jordon said.

    [9B SkyGuardian at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2018. The same type of unmanned aircraft will begin flying over San Diego in 2020.
    (Airman 1st Class Oriana Beard/ U.S. Air Force)

    Hall is skeptical. He said that while law enforcement may say there is no interest in drones now, that could easily change. After all, he said, license plate readers, which were initially a military-grade technology, are used now by local and federal law enforcement agencies.

    He said a lack of public discussion about what technology is implemented in the San Diego region leads to “eroding relationships” with law enforcement.

    “It doesn’t matter if the police department doesn’t want it or not; it’s a question for the public,” Hall said. “It’s a question for San Diegans — do we want it? Do we want to be policed that way? It’s not up to the police; it shouldn’t be their call.”

    Barry Summers, a North Carolina-based researcher who studies the trend of military-grade drones being introduced into American airspace, agreed.

    He said in an interview that military-grade drones were made for surveillance in warfare but are being used to violate Americans’ rights.

    “Allowing this powerful surveillance technology to be turned inward on American citizens isn’t something that should happen without a robust public debate,” Summers said. “The implications for civil liberties are too profound. We live in an age where every capability to spy on innocent Americans that can be abused, has been abused.”

    General Atomics said its goal is to tackle the challenges preventing commercial unmanned aircraft from operating in civilian airspace, including getting certification for the drones and employing technologies for their safe operation in air traffic.

    “NASA and (General Atomics) have a shared goal of seeing UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) fly safely and unencumbered…” said Linden Blue, CEO, of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. “GA-ASI has worked with NASA for more than five years on this goal and we’re excited to participate in their next set of demonstrations.”

    The Department of Homeland Security already flies Predators over parts of the U.S.- Mexico border.

    And the California Air National Guard uses Predator-class remotely piloted aircraft on wildfire missions.

    In an August 2017 demonstration, General Atomics flew a SkyGuardian from Yuma, Arizona to the company’s airstrip in Grey Butte in Palmdale, after it received a waiver from the Federation Aviation Administration. Defense One’s technology editor, Patrick Tucker, wrote about the high-tech demonstration.

    “The newest version of the (drone’s) camera has 720p HD resolution, enough to show faces in a crowd from 2,000 feet up. And the optics are rapidly improving,” he wrote.

    Other kinds of drones — commercial drones and consumer drones— are already common in American skies. They’re smaller, much lighter weight, and fly closer to the ground than military-grade drones.

    The SkyGuardian is more technologically advanced and can remain in the air for 40 hours.

    General Atomics advertises a weaponized version on its website. The version expected to be used in the San Diego test flight next year will not be weaponized.

    McCauley said the SkyGuardian test flight will not cost the city any money, since the project is funded by General Atomics and NASA. A date for the test flight has not been decided, she said.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)
    Thousands of San Diego street lights are equipped with sensors and cameras. Here’s what they record.

    [Close to 3,000 street lamps across downtown San Diego and the city are quipped with cameras.
    (Luis Gomez / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Some 3,200 sensors installed in street lights all over San Diego will monitor pedestrian traffic, among other movements.

    MARCH 18, 2019 5:20 PM

    If you stand under a street lamp almost anywhere in San Diego, odds are good that it will be doing more than just emitting that familiar urban glow in the night. It’s likely watching you and tracking your movement, and a whole lot more.

    Some 3,200 smart sensors have already been installed in street lights citywide as part of an effort to make San Diego a so-called “smart city,” and last week, city officials met with members of the public for the first time to quell fears about privacy given the rise of facial-recognition technology and license-plate scanners.

    In all, San Diego plans to install 4,200 smart sensor nodes on street lights by the middle of 2020, Erik Caldwell, the city’s director of economic development, said in an interview.

    Related: Cameras on nearly 3,000 street lights all over San Diego, police take interest in video

    We have so many questions, and we imagine you do, too.

    What kind of data are the sensors gathering? Some street lights are equipped with miniature cameras — are they being used for surveillance? And who can access this data, anyway?

    Here’s what we know about these smart sensors.

    What are they monitoring and what data are they gathering?

    Atmospheric data: Some 3,200 smart street lamps throughout the city are equipped with sensors that detect atmospheric data like air temperature, air pressure and humidity levels.

    Video cameras: In addition, some smart street lamps are also equipped with video cameras and audio capabilities. There are 2,942 street lamps that are equipped with video cameras, Caldwell said in an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune. An additional 250 video-equipped lamps are currently being installed, he said.

    Audio sensors: Street lights with audio capabilities have not been engaged or turned on as of yet, Caldwell said, though he did not say if or when those audio capabilities would be turned on.

    Data goes to cloud: In a document in which the city spells out its smart street light program, it says the metadata gathered by these sensors will connect to General Electric’s “CityIQ” cloud database, which includes data like “the number of persons who passed a location during a particular time” but would not include “personally identifiable information about those persons.”

    An interactive map shows where smart sensors are located in San Diego. Downtown has a concentration of them. Screengrab

    Where are these sensors located?

    Sensors are installed all over the city with a large concentration in downtown.

    An interactive map shows the exact location of each node, but it is unclear which ones are equipped with cameras and microphones, or which can detect movement.

    Are they in my neighborhood?

    Neighborhoods with the highest concentration of smart sensors include Little Italy, Bankers Hill, North Park, Hillcrest, University Heights, Normal Heights, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla and parts of Carmel Valley along Del Mar Heights Road and Carmel Valley Road.

    See this map to find all the sensor nodes in your neighborhood.

    What are the cameras used for?

    The cameras in the street lamps can record both real-time video or video data, according to the city.

    The cameras retain video footage for up to five days and then they are deleted, Cody Hooven, the
    City of San Diego's Chief Sustainability Officer, told KGTV’s 10 News.

    The range of motion and vision for the cameras on the street lamps is unclear.

    Hooven said the video footage is meant to assist police in solving crimes, and that police will only be able to request footage or images after a crime has been committed. It’s not clear whether minor offenses will also be monitored by police.

    KGTV 10 News reported that the San Diego Police Department has used video from these cameras for 46 investigations since August.

    Who has access to all of this data?

    Audio and video data is accessible only to “law enforcement personnel authorized by the Chief of Police and subject to Police Department policy,” the city says.

    It is unclear, however, whether San Diego’s police can or will share that data with law enforcement agencies such as the San Diego Sheriff’s Department or federal agencies like the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

    All other data that is not video or audio — or any data that includes “personally identifiable information and/or biometric information,” according to the city — can be accessed by the public through an application programming interface, or API.

    Those who want to access this data can visit the city’s website.

    How are city officials assuring the public about privacy?

    Facial recognition technology — cameras and computers that can capture, store and recognize human faces — have become a common tool in places like ports of entry and airports. But in the last 10 years, San Diego-area law enforcement agencies have adopted the technology using an iPad or mobile device to take a photo of a person in handcuffs and upload it to a database. The San Diego Police Department uses it.

    License-plate readers are more ubiquitous. In 2017, the city of Carlsbad installed automated license-plate readers on utility poles and patrol cars, the Union-Tribune reported. At the time, more than 200 agencies in the state including the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department had been using such technology.

    City officials emphasize that the smart street lights do not read license plates, or engage in facial recognition.

    “This is not a surveillance system, nobody is watching it 24 hours a day,” Caldwell told KSWB-TV Fox 5.

    Wednesday’s public meeting was the first of its kind to calm fears from the public about the street lights’ surveillance capabilities. In an email, Caldwell said more meetings are likely to take place but he said none have been scheduled yet.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)
    San Diego police to continue using gunshot detection system, despite some criticism

    ShotSpotter, which uses a network of audio sensors to determine where and when shootings take place, was installed in four San Diego communities in November 2016 — Lincoln Park, Valencia Park, O’Farrell and Skyline. (John Gibbins)

    OCT. 7, 2017 6 AM

    After a yearlong pilot program, the San Diego Police Department has decided to stick with a gunshot detection system that automatically informs officers of shootings, even if no one calls them in.

    ShotSpotter, which uses a network of audio sensors to determine where and when shootings take place, was installed in four San Diego communities in November 2016 — Lincoln Park, Valencia Park, O’Farrell and Skyline.

    Police leaders said the system has allowed officers to respond more quickly to shootings and has provided information that helps officers stay safe. In its first year, the system cost $254,000, paid for with asset forfeiture funds. It is expected to cost $235,300 in its second year.

    Once sensors pick up the sound of gunfire, the noise is sent to a review center in Newark, Calif., where a trained professional determines if it is a shooting. If it is, information about the incident is sent directly to officers in the field, including a precise location, whether there was more than one shooter and whether the gun used was semi-automatic or automatic.

    The technology is used in more than 90 cities worldwide, including New York, Milwaukee and Miami.

    Police leaders said the system enables officers to respond to shootings they may not have known about otherwise. Out of 131 instances of gunfire detected by the system, only 23 percent were also reported by community members.

    San Diego police Capt. Terence Charlot told a city public safety committee Wednesday that the system helped the department provide “improved and efficient response to potentially violent instances of gunfire” in the community.

    But some residents who have long been critical of the system voiced concern about the technology, saying it may lead to over-policing in communities of color and arguing that it hasn’t been particularly effective in catching criminals or solving crimes.

    They also said the system was installed with little to no community input.

    “This does not connect you to community in a way that builds trust,” said community member Tasha Williamson. “This had no community buy-in before it was implemented and extremely little to continue.”

    Police officials said they started giving regular updates about ShotSpotter data at neighborhood meetings and that the feedback they’ve received has been largely positive.

    Charlot said officers found evidence of a shooting at 21 of the 131 incidents picked up by ShotSpotter last year. In the other cases, no evidence — such as bullets, casings or victims — was recovered.

    In two of the 21 cases, people were injured and those shootings were reported by community members, police said. Several other cases that involved property damage were also reported by residents.

    Police said although they didn’t make arrests in most cases, they found evidence that may prove to be helpful in future investigations.

    Department officials said the system helped officers get to shooting scenes faster than when they are dispatched to a scene after a 911 call.

    Calls reporting gun crimes are some of the most urgent that offers respond to, and are often labeled emergency or Priority One.

    Charlot said it takes seven minutes, on average, for an officer to response to an emergency call. It takes about 11.5 minutes to respond to a Priority One call.

    On average, it takes officers 4.5 minutes to get to a shooting picked up by ShotSpotter.

    Several members of the public spoke out against the technology on Wednesday, some of whom took issue with the communities that were chosen, saying the system could lead to over-policing of communities with large minority populations.

    Police officials said they chose those neighborhoods after researching which San Diego areas experienced a high percentage of gun crimes.

    The communities selected were high on the list and close to each other.

    Some suggested a better use of the money would be to invest in programs that bring officers and community members together.

    Bishop Cornelius Bowser has long argued ShotSpotter isn’t the way to do that. Bowser partnered with the department to combat gang violence nearly a decade ago, and he helped shape the Community Assistance Support Team to stop retaliatory gang violence.

    “Law enforcement needs to put more time, effort and resources into building public trust and legitimacy in the community,” he said.

    Police leaders have said that not all programs qualify for asset forfeiture funds.

    The Rev. Gerald Brown said Wednesday that despite his early skepticism, he grew to support the technology as he learned more about how it worked.

    “When there’s a shooting, we want (officers) there… ,” said Brown, who is executive director of the United African American Ministerial Action Council, a consortium of black minsters. “If they’re able to respond much quicker, then that’s what we want in our community and in our city.”

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