Photo of VHS package for 1964 movie "The Gorgon" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058155/; "In the early 20th century, a Gorgon takes human form and terrorizes a small European village by turning its citizens to stone.") (photo: Jesper Wiking on Flickr)

The Washington Post informs us Sunday that the Air Force will soon be deploying new drone surveillance technology that the military claims will enable movements across an entire town to be monitored “in real time”. Of course, there are significant questions about just how this technology will be of value, and the Post does a good job of pointing out the challenges that lie ahead in employing the technology. In the typical combination of hubris and unintended comic relief that has come to characterize the US military of late, the technology has been named “Gorgon Stare”, under the assumption that the mere viewing of it by those being watched will turn them to stone, but Gorgon also means “anything very ugly or horrid“, matching US policy and actions in the areas where it will be employed.

The Post describes the new system:

The system, made up of nine video cameras mounted on a remotely piloted aircraft, can transmit live images to soldiers on the ground or to analysts tracking enemy movements. It can send up to 65 different images to different users; by contrast, Air Force drones today shoot video from a single camera over a “soda straw” area the size of a building or two.

Of course, with so much data arriving, it is impossible to provide “real time” analysis, and the Post points this out:

Questions persist, however, about whether the military has the capability to sift through huge quantities of imagery quickly enough to convey useful data to troops in the field.

Officials also acknowledge that Gorgon Stare is of limited value unless they can match it with improved human intelligence – eyewitness reports of who is doing what on the ground.

And the Air Force is going to the “best of the best” for help in sifting through the mountains of video, as the Post reports that both ESPN and reality shows were visited while the system was being developed.

Furthering the comedy, here is an academic definition of Gorgon:

1. (Gr. Myth) One of three fabled sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, with snaky hair and of terrific aspect, the sight of whom turned the beholder to stone. The name is particularly given to Medusa.
2. Anything very ugly or horrid.

Has Google been disabled on Air Force computers?

Just to remind us that this extremely expensive equipment will be at risk, Iran is claiming on Sunday to have shot down two drones. The one thing we can rely on as the Gorgon Stare technology is implemented is that taxpayers will be paying a lot more money for each drone that is lost.