Support: Wearable Vidcams And Reach-Back


February 20, 2014: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) recently bought some Stream wearable video cameras. Wearable vidcams have been around for over a decade, but the Stream device is unique because it has built in wifi and the ability to easily stream video. In the past that was not useful to the military unless the troops has special (expensive and complex) gear along. But the latest generation of military radios has the ability to easily handle digital data (like digital video) and use equally small accessories for these radios which sends that video stream to a satellite and thence anywhere in the world.

The Stream vidcam was designed for police and security tasks. The camera weighs less than 90 gr (three ounces) and is 75mm (three inches) long. Stream will last four hours on a single charge and can send the video to a video card or stream it via a wireless connection. Much of what SOCOM does is indistinguishable from police work, like long range patrols into enemy territory to stake out a location where key Islamic terrorists may be hiding out. Sometimes there is a UAV overhead ready to fire a missile or two once someone on the ground can confirm that the bad guy is in a particular room, building, cave or tent. A small team of SOCOM operators with eyes on the suspect can use Stream to get what they see back to where there are tools or informants who can better confirm identities so the attack can be made.

At other times the recon team will want more eyes on what they see to get advice on where or how to proceed next. This use of more abundant resources somewhere else is called reach-back and it is becoming more used and useful as satellite communications because cheaper and easier to implement. The missile armed UAV would not be practical without satellite communications and reach-back. The operators for most of these UAVs are all stationed in one U.S. Air Force base in the United States. On some UAV recon missions experts from the FBI, CIA, State Department or SOCOM may be called in to quickly interpret what the UAV cameras is seeing and rapidly decide what to do (like fire a missile or deploy troops). All of those resources can now be applied to a SOCOM operator, or any solider or marine or CIA field operative who has eyes on something important and needs some help to quickly determine just how important.



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