Saucer Snoop

Saucer Snoop

by / July 31, 1997
Recently, the residents of West Palm Beach, Fla., encountered a flying saucer. But this was no alien ship. It was Cypher - a small, rotary-wing, unmanned flying vehicle designed for conducting surveillance and monitoring operations.

Cypher can fly through streets, hover and peek into windows, land on building roofs and transport small payloads.

Cypher uses a global positioning system to navigate and operates with a centralized computer (vehicle mission processor), navigational computation and air vehicle communications. The entire mission can be planned, executed and monitored from a single display system.

Commands are relayed to Cypher via a digital telemetry uplink. Aircraft status, mission data, test data and payload video are merged into a single data downlink signal that is transmitted to a mobile control van.

Cypher cruises at about 90 mph, climbs to 8,000 feet and navigates for about three hours.

For additional information, contact Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., 6900 Main Street, Stratford, #CT 06497. Call William Tuttle at 203/386-3829. E-mail:


HazMat Hot Rod
Massachusetts has deployed 15 Hazardous Materials Response Vehicles (HMRV) -- the most sophisticated in the nation -- to local fire departments. HMRVs consist of six new Technical Operation Modules (TOM) and nine new Operational Resource Units (ORU). "The strategic placement of these cutting-edge units will make these resources available anywhere in the commonwealth within an hour or less," said Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Kathleen O'Toole.

TOM units carry communications and scientific equipment including computer systems, fax machines, printers, radio, audio and video technology, mapping capability for Massachusetts and surrounding states, a computerized weather station, and data on more than 162,000 chemicals. TOMs also feature a plume dispersion modeling tool which can assist in determining the direction and speed of a toxic vapor plume. A remote-controlled video camera atop a 34-foot mast helps personnel view the scene. ORUs are designed primarily for equipment storage.

For additional information, contact The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Public Safety, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108. Call Charles McDonald at 617/727-7775 x507.


Let Their Fingers Do the Talking
raPID provides mobile fingerprint identification for officers in the field. Matching is either performed against an internal database, or information can be sent via mobile frequencies, cellular communication, etc., to a central automated fingerprint identification system.

raPID features less than 10-second fingerprint capture and extraction time, a live-scan capture area of 19mmx19mm, scan resolution of 500 DPI, LCD display with backlighting, 10-digit keypad, demographic entry via touchscreen, customized forms-based input and PC card interface. Options include: 1:1 fingerprint matching, integrated card reader and digital radio communication.

The unit weighs 2 pounds and its rechargeable battery lasts about 10 hours. raPID is currently being field tested by the San Francisco Police Department.

For additional information, contact NEC Technologies, 1201 New York Avenue, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005. Call Christopher Warn at 202/408-4762.


Electronic Voting
ELEX Voting Terminals allow visually impaired adults to vote. For those with moderate visual impairment, the terminals employ large text, appropriate layouts and colors on the screen.

For those with serious visual impairment, "Audio-Touch," provides audio prompts in response to the voter's touch input. The terminals can be customized to match local election processes and models.

According to the company, terminals are simple to use and have multi-language capability, integration capability, integration of absentee voting and encryption.

For additional information, contact Computing Devices International, 1020 68th Avenue N.E., Calgary, Alberta Canada. T2E 8P2. Call Trevor Jones at 403/295-6711. E-mail: .


Make Your Point Stick
During the O.J. Simpson trial, a Pointmaker video marker allowed attorneys to draw and point on video and computer images
during testimony. New York City's Police Department Command and Control Center also uses a Pointmaker system to annotate charts, computer images and diagrams -- displayed on large projection screens -- so that up to 40 police officers and city officials can collectively plan and track progress on such projects as crime trends, accidents, parade routes and power outages.

The Pointmaker PVI-83 allows up to 10 users to annotate at once. It is compatible with most video cameras, VCRs and laser disc players, and includes Macintosh and PC versions.

For additional information, contact Boeckeler Instruments Inc., 3280 East Hemisphere Loop, Bldg. 114, Tucson, AZ 85706-5024. Call Janelle Kearney at 520/573-7100.


Tofu Brain Surgeon
While other robots are playing volleyball, tennis, chess or just having fun, a robot at NASA has a much more serious job. It helps surgeons prevent hemorrhaging during delicate brain operations.

The robot is able to scan and "feel" brain structures, making very slow, precise movements during operations which could lead to "smart" surgical tools, said Dr. Robert Mah, principal investigator of the NeuroEngineering Group at Ames Research Center. The research team is training the robot using tofu, soybean and other materials similar to brain tissue.

For additional information, contact NASA, Ames Research Center, Mail Stop 269-1 NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035. Call Dr. Robert Mah at 415/604-6044.


Sky Station?
By the year 2000, said Sky Station International Inc., 11-ton blimps, floating at an altitude of 15 miles, will provide Internet access, telephony, videophone service and high-speed data networking.

Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig -- a major investor in the concept, and president and chief operating officer of the company -- said the FCC has approved the company's use of the 47GHz frequency band.

Each helium-filled blimp -- 50mx50mx140m -- could provide high bandwidth communications channels (64Kbps to as high as 155Mbps) -- to an area of approximately 750,000 square kilometers and would generate 157 kilowatts of power from solar panel arrays. They could support 400,000 simultaneous 64Kbps and 1,000 multi-megabit transmissions, according to the company. A few details have yet to be worked out -- like how to keep each blimp in position.

For additional information, contact Sky Station International Inc., 1824 R Street N.W., Washington, DC 20009-1604. Call 202/518-0900.

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