ARGUS-IS: A 1.8 Gigapixel Drone Camera That Sees Everything and Then Some

What do you get when you combine 368 5MP cellphone cameras into a mosaic and add some other super-secret parts? You get the DARPA-funded Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (or ARGUS-IS), and this puppy can see your house from, well, wherever it darn well pleases.

Altogether, ARGUS-IS is a 1.8 Gigapixel drone-mounted surveillance system that took 30 months and $18.5M to become a reality. The video above is a clip from a new PBS documentary titled “Rise of the Drones“. It offers a fascinating peek at what the drone cam is capable of.


Here are a few mind-blowing facts to put the ARGUS-IS’s camera into perspective:

ARGUS can scan 25 square miles of ground surface in extremely high detail, all at once, from 20,000 feet. It’s like having over 100 predator drones scanning an area the size of a medium-sized city at once.

This thing can pick up objects as small as 6-inches on the ground and see you waving at your buddies from 17,500 feet in the air. And all of the imaging data it collects is stored at a rate of about one million terabytes per day.


Whether or not ARGUS-IS is hovering somewhere over your city right now is classified information, but be sure that it’ll likely see you if it is. And even though we’re not thrilled at the prospect of an all-seeing eye in the sky, the pixel war is really gonna heat up if/when this technology trickles down to us mere mortals.

(via DARPA via Gizmodo)

Image credits: Images courtesy of DARPA

  • Richard Horsfield

    “It can see you waving something 6 inches at your buddies”… blimey, not the sort of photos I want to see!

  • Sulhan Oberfeldwebel

    no more doing hanky panky on a broad daylight, argus can see me.

  • Chuck Marcelo

    This is why I bought a pretty good fog machine

  • Photo tiger

    The show Person of Interest is becoming reality.

  • nthisrain


  • bgrady413

    I believe you misread that, but you should be waving that about in public anyway!

  • Hanselbeck

    The Argus can see your naked ass at night too! Just see the prev generation drones that serving in the British forces in Afghanistan. Infrared/nightvision camera can see everything at night and the thermal camera can see everything through the walls.

    Welcome in 1984!

  • John Partridge

    Just imagine what the Paparazzi will do with with technology like that… Princess Kate will never go outside again.

  • GBSS

    Wow i felt like I was in danger before but now that i have the government spying on me from above, I feel so much safer!

  • Matt

    Should be?

  • Sarpent

    I’m not sure that there exists a wireless communication technology (or spectrum) that can transmit anything close to that amount of video data in real time.

  • fred mach

    Enemy of the State

  • Golomar

    For air-sea rescue missions this type of camera could be a literal life-saver.

  • alx


  • Ben Marshall

    smoke bombs… lots and lots of smoke bombs

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  • Doug

    First God, now this!

  • Joe Golden

    So it will be able to tell the public when corporations are polluting or infringing on others?

  • Duvud von Ecosien

    It’s not the row material being transmitted, but only the video you watch at the bottom, being calculated directly in the plane and then sent.

  • Adam

    If I remember correctly, I believe they said the data is stored on the UAV itself and copied off later. But can also be accessed as a live feed, as Duvud said.

  • Ngallendou

    What is worse, the eternal Judge of right and wrong, Who sees all of this and much more, stores everything in a flawless memory, and will show it all when each one’s Day of Judgement comes. Creeps such as I will require a mighty Defender to beat our many raps.