Airborne police surveillance is a PVR for every car-journey in a city

America's police forces have demonstrated a bottomless appetite for army-style crowd control and CIA-style surveillance, and the private sector has stepped up to the plate in a big way.

A Dayton-based company called Persistent Surveillance Systems wants to loft Cessnas with high-resolution cameras over cities, setting them circling and recording all automobile journeys is 25 square mile areas. Dayton's police chief is a major partisan for them, signing their solicitation letters to police forces in the USA and abroad — including come-ons to states with a reputation for intrusive surveillance and human rights abuses like Thailand, Brazil and Russia.

The LA Sheriff's Department secretly trialled PSS's surveillance over Compton in 2012 and got spectacularly outed for it, and the subsequent outcry drew in issues of race and internecine struggle in LA policing (the Sheriff's Department didn't notify Compton's government that they'd put an eye in their sky).

The LA Sheriff tried to deflect criticism by saying that the whole thing didn't work very well, which is hardly comforting if you believe that police departments shouldn't put whole cities under surveillance, whether or not that surveillance works well.

PSS wants other cities to sign up for its services, and it's got a major bargaining chip: it's looking to site an analysis office where dozens of workers (first-person shooter experience preferred — no, I'm not joking) would be employed to make sense of the footage from its private air force. A city that signs up for a lucrative enough contract might just get this plum in exchange.

The airborne panopticon: How plane-mounted cameras watch entire cities [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

(Image: Sky Colors, Celsim Junior, CC-BY)