Military Wiki
Gorgon Stare
Role Reconnaissance aircraft sensor
National origin United States
Manufacturer Sierra Nevada Corporation
Designer DARPA
First flight date unknown
Introduction flown under a MQ-9 Reaper
Status 10 planned delivery
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 1
Unit cost
$15 million

Gorgon Stare is a video capture technology developed by the United States military. It is a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone.[1] The US Air Force calls it "wide-area surveillance sensor system".[2]


The system is capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city, which can then be analyzed by humans or an artificial intelligence, such as the Mind's Eye project being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This motion imagery is not considered video as it is collected at fewer hertz than the standard definition of video. TV-like quality of video is 24–60 Hz.[3] Gorgon Stare needs to utilize a system of tagging and metadata to be fully effective.[4][5][6] The Air Force plans to deliver one system in 2011, another in 2012, and a third in 2014, though they will not enter service until accepted by the commander in the theatre of operations.[7] Gorgon Stare has been under development for more than two years and it is designed to download 65 different images to a variety of military users for analysis; this is what is referred to as “wide-area surveillance.”[8]


Gorgon Stare is being developed and tested on the MQ-9 Reaper at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. with the 53rd Wing. These sensors pods have been in development since 2009 by the Air Force’s Big Safari group and Sierra Nevada Corp.[9]

In January 2011, it was announced that the program wasn't performing to expectations, and included faults such as "a large black triangle moving throughout the image," due to failure to combine the images taken by the multiple cameras, inferior image quality compared to older systems, a problematic night-vision system, inability to track people on the surface, and delays of up to eighteen seconds in sending data to the ground.[7] In response, the Air Force said that several of the flaws had been fixed since the report detailing the issues had been written, that the system was never designed to offer high-resolution imagery over a wide area, and that in some areas the testing was "not sufficiently constructed to objectively evaluate the capabilities of the system," according to an anonymous source involved with the program.[10]

Development costs are in the $15 million range. This sensor will photograph an area with a four-kilometer radius underneath the MQ-9 Reaper. The Reaper can fly both day and night operations from 12 angles; as reported by Robert Marlin, a technical adviser for the Air Force.[11]

The Eglin AFB test revealed numerous problems, one such problem was a faulty coordinate grid for the chipped-out imagery. Another problem was a floating black triangle in the scenes. A third problem was an incompatibility with the handheld Rover 5 computers.[9]

Phase two

Phase two will integrate processes of tracking algorithms from the ARGUS-IS system. Argus is a system of tools developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.[2]

Deployment plans

Lt. Gen. Craig Koziol, the director of the ISR Task Force, reported in a news conference that Gorgon Stare is planned to be deployed in December 2011.[9]

Name origin

The Gorgon was a monster from Greek mythology whose stare could turn any who viewed it to stone. Presumably the reference is to the Gorgon Stare's ability to freeze a scene in time for analysts to later view.

Similar systems

A similar system was planned to be installed on the Blue Devil blimp, a spy blimp developed for the US Air Force.[12] In 2006, a similar wide-area surveillance system, the Constant Hawk, was being tested by the US Army. Also, in 2007, the Marine Corps tested an upgrade of the Constant Hawk, called Angel Fire. Both of these sensors were mounted under aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.[11]

See also


  1. View all comments that have been posted about this article. (2011-01-02). "With Air Force's Gorgon Drone 'we can see everything'". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Air Force The New Normal for RPAs, by Marc V. Schanz, Senior Editor, November 2011, Vol. 94, No. 11, page53.
  4. "Pentagon to adopt NFL's instant replay technology". 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  5. "Gorgon Stare Broadens UAV Surveillance". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  6. Lohr, Steve (1 January 2011). "Computers That See You and Keep Watch Over You". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Gorgon Stare tests reveal long list of problems". 25 January 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  8. : Gorgon Stare surveillance system gazes over Afghan war zone, by Craig Whitlock, published: April 29, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Air Force stands by Gorgon Stare program, by Ben Iannotta - C4ISR Journal Writer, posted Tuesday Jan 25, 2011 14:15:59 EST
  10. Axe, David; Shachtman, Noah (25 January 2011). "Our ‘All-Seeing Eye’ Sees Just Fine, Air Force Insists". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 : Reaper Sensors Called “Gorgon Stare”
  12. Shachtman, Noah (18 January 2011). "All-Seeing Blimp Could Be Afghanistan’s Biggest Brain". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 22 January 2011. 

External links

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