The security firm Raytheon is targeting police departments for marketing its spy-in-the-sky blimp, which was tested at this year’s Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Like most airships, it acted as an advertising vehicle. But hidden inside the 55-foot-long white balloon was a powerful surveillance camera adapted from the technology Raytheon provides the U.S. military. Essentially an unmanned drone, the blimp transmitted detailed images to the race’s security officers and to Indiana police.
Using infrared sensors and a map overlay not unlike Google Earth, the technology scans a large area, setting important landmarks (say, the perimeter of a military base), and constantly relays video clips back to a command center. If a gun fires or a bomb is detonated, the airships can detect the noise and focus the camera–all from a mighty-high 500 feet. “Large municipalities could find many uses for this [technology] once we figure out how to get it in their hands,” says Nathan Kennedy, the blimp’s project manager. For now, cost might be the only thing preventing a blimp from appearing over your head, but Raytheon says local authorities could install a built-in LED screen to attract sponsors, generate revenue and defer operating costs.