Eye in the sky (or on the floor)

GCN | April 4, 2005
By William Jackson

New surveillance tool can provide officers with a third eye

Remington Arms Co. Inc. of Madison, N.C., is launching a new technology division with a ruggedized surveillance camera that can be tossed into dangerous areas to give police real-time video and audio.

The Eye Ball looks much like Mattel’s Magic 8 Ball, but instead of ambiguous answers such as “outlook unclear,” it streams full-motion video, audio and infrared images to a handheld display unit, letting officers look into areas where it might be dangerous to poke their heads.

“We’ve never seen this technology before,” said Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County, N.C. The department has evaluated the product, due out in June. “It’s a fascinating piece of equipment that could provide us with a new kind of input and possibly help save lives.”

Remington, a well-known gun-maker, de- cided two years ago to diversify into other technology for the law enforcement and military markets, said Asher Gendelman, director of the company’s Law Enforcement Technologies Division. The Eye Ball, its first product, was developed for the Israeli military and licensed by Remington.

It is a 1.25-pound matte black ball, slightly larger than a baseball and weighted on the bottom so it rights itself when tossed or dropped. Controlled from the wireless display unit, it can rotate a full 360 degrees and zoom in. Each handheld unit can control two Eye Balls.

The camera is essentially mounted on its side to give a 55-degree horizontal and 41-degree vertical view. This wide angle makes it possible to see much of a room when the ball is placed on the floor. It also has near-infrared night vision for operating in low light.

It can transmit outside up to 200 yards to the display unit, which has a 6.4-inch color TFT screen. The range inside a building is up to 40 yards, depending on the structure. Audio and video are transmitted at 2.4 GHz. Infrared and control signals are transmitted in the 902-MHz-to-928-MHz band.

Let’s go to the videotape

The display unit does not record or transmit data itself, but is equipped with an S-video connector so that video and audio can be recorded or sent to a central location such as a command center.

There is no security on the data transmission. Gendelman said the relatively short range of the device and normally short du- ration of events in which an Eye Ball would be needed make it unlikely the signal would be intercepted or interfered with.

The device can be screwed onto a telescoping pole and used to peek around corners or look into attics, and a lanyard lets it be lowered into stairwells to give officers an advance look at the landing below. Unattached, it can be thrown through windows or over walls.

The ruggedized camera has withstood two-story drops and being thrown against concrete walls, Gendelman said. It is not intended to breach heavy barriers and in tests against double quarter-inch-paned windows it failed to break through the second pane of glass, al- though the camera itself was unharmed.

Currently, the only tools the SWAT team has to extend its visibility are mirrors for looking around corners, Page said. “The Eye Ball can give you a chance to see what’s behind doors, what’s down a stairway.”

With tight budgets and limited manpower, he also sees the tossable camera as a way to leverage manpower.

Gendelman said he hopes departments will be able to use Homeland Security Department grant money to buy Eye Ball kits.

The kit, which includes two Eye Balls and one training ball, a display unit and two chargers, will sell for $4,800.