Eye-in-the-sky surveillance cameras will be watching over Rio 2016

Millions of people will flock in to the Rio Olympics next week, despite the threats of Zika and reports of garbage-filled water. Like every Olympic games, security at the events is paramount. In addition to the 85,000 personnel that will patrol the venues and the city, eye-in-the-sky cameras will also be watching the entire city from above.

Altave, a contractor for the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, commissioned Virginia-based company Logos Technologies to mount four wide-area motion imagery (WAMI) units on weather balloons and small blimps 200 meters (656 feet) in the air. The system will survey some of the biggest venues at Rio 2026, and be monitored by security personnel hired by the Ministry of Justice.

Rio staff can watch video from the Simera cameras in real time, and also rewind to look back at up to eight hours of footage. With footage from those cameras, users can even pan and zoom within the recorded images.

Doug Rombough, Logos’ VP of business development, has likened the units’ capabilities to a TiVO combined with Google Earth. Each Simera unit comes with 13 cameras and can cover an area of 40 square kilometers (25 square miles) for up to three days, according to Fast Company.

As many as six users can pan through different parts of the footage from each unit at the same time. So if a crisis were to break out in one part of a venue, responders could look through multiple video feeds of different angles of that event.

Courtesy LogosView from a Simera unit just south of Rio.

The technology, however, can only go so far. Most of the cameras can’t show individual faces, according to Motherboard. There is one higher resolution camera that picks up 15 times 4K resolution — the equivalent of 60 high-definition TVs, according to Fast Company. But in general, the system is designed more for wide-scale surveillance to pinpoint movement and locate dangerous activity to help first responders can find a site quickly.

The Rio Olympics will be the first time the camera system will be deployed in a civilian setting — Logos first developed its wide-area camera units for the Department of Homeland Security. But over time they have created less rugged, more lightweight models for situations that are less dangerous or chaotic. Let’s hope that remains the case at the Olympics.

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