Eye In The Sky To Protect Us

by Diane Dimond on August 16, 2008

Ever since I saw secret agent Maxwell Smart take off his shoe and use it as a telephone I’ve been fascinated by the array of ‘toys’ available to law enforcement. So, as I was flipping through Tactical Weapons Magazine the other day (hey, no telling where an intrepid columnist gets her information!) there, among ads for special ops shotguns and mini night vision monoculars, was the strangest contraption I’d ever seen. The headline read: Mini Blimp Recon. Huh?

It looked like a cross between a suspended-in-the-sky Michelin Man and a big white, over inflated football with a tail. The technical name is BLN-3 Mini Blimp, its nickname is TopEyeView and to this civilian it could mean a revolution in law enforcement. Simply put this 30 foot long tethered blimp flies 500 feet in the air and carries on its belly a powerful, state-of-the-art revolving robotic camera. It goes without saying that it can provide panoramic wide shots of crime scenes, highways and public gatherings. What’s most interesting is the camera on this little dynamo is so powerful it can spot a human sized target up to four miles away and actually recognize the person from up to 2 miles. TopEyeView can zero in on a car sized target that’s 8 miles from its location and if the angle is right it can read the license plate from up to 4 miles away.

Think of the savings to police departments! No more blanketing an area with armies of officers on overtime. Just launch the blimp, activate its streaming video function to download to any command center within 10 miles and ONE operator/officer with a joystick can help specialized ground troops zero in on where they need to go.

A bank robbery? This eye-in-the-sky can direct police cruisers to exact roadblock sites no matter how many twists and turns the getaway car makes.

A natural disaster strikes? TopEyeView’s team on the ground can be up and operational in as little as 20 minutes and can pinpoint the precise location from which survivors of a flood or tornado need to be rescued. If looting breaks out the blimp can isolate the criminals on camera and immediately download the high resolution video profiles to a DVD. What prosecutors would give for that in court!

TopEyeView could be deployed after a highway pileup to help determine immediately how many ambulances are needed and the best route for first responders to get to the injured.

Or, say, there’s a need for surveillance at a public demonstration, a parade or an event like the Superbowl. This helium filled reconnaissance eye-in-the-sky could help keep the peace – or assist restoring order – by pinpointing exact trouble spots.

It seems like such a simple idea, one Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 would immediately embrace and exploit.

I got to meet the CEO of TopEyeView recently during a demonstration he staged for the U.S. Military. Tamir Sagie, originally from Israel, speaks passionately about the many uses for his simple yet diverse product. It also has military and intelligence applications, he told me, and he’s already been approached by American television networks hungry for less expensive aerial footage of major events – think a visit by the Pope or a Presidential inauguration. Sending up a fossil fuel burning helicopter can cost as much as 40 thousand dollars. Sagie will lease TopEyeView for a quarter of that amount and deliver 8 full hours of Hi Def video for the price. (www.topeyeview.com)

But back to law enforcement. This technology is already a staple in Israel, England, France, Russia, Poland, Australia, Brazil and Angola. In the United States the Atlanta Police Department was so impressed with the blimp’s capabilities it decided to buy a set-up for itself. Cost: about 300 thousand dollars. City Fathers decided with more than 50 major events in Atlanta each year TopEyeView would be more cost effective than all that overtime pay for boots on the ground.

For cities that don’t need or can’t afford a blimp of their own TopEyeView can be leased for from 8 to 15 thousand dollars a day.

Too much money you say?

Consider this – the annual overtime budget for many mid-sized town’s law enforcement efforts easily reaches the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 million dollars each year. Think of how much of that money could be saved with a dedicated eye-in-the-sky. And who knows, it could also save lives and cut the crime rate too.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Inkrote August 16, 2008 at 7:01 am

While this is a great approach to reducing the crime rate it is just another tool to be add to the arsenal employed by a police department. The human element and still the number one way to reduce the crime rate is police presence. Park a marked police car in a neighborhood and move it periodically and watch the crime rate slow. Place an eye in the sky and take away the police presence, the crime will still occur, but it can act as an effective tool in helping to solve or catch the criminal after the act. In most cases its reactive rather then proactive. Can it save money and help aid police in apprehension, absolutely, but to deter it takes uniformed presence, sting operations and community policing efforts. Again, a great tool to add to any police departments budget but it will only reduce the crime rate when the street officer is available and present to make the arrest. Yes, it can reduce overtime and be a powerful tool for police. I just don’t want the public thinking that reducing uniformed police officer by placing a camera in the sky will be the answer to a strong police presence on the street. I’m all for the eye in the sky, but I still want to see a police officer driving through my neighborhood.


Bob Burtis August 16, 2008 at 9:46 am

It is simply a tool and having been a first responder nothing is more frustrating than being able to see something and not having the ability to respond.
Sheriffs departments across the country have been buying expensive mobile command vehicles. They have been described affectionately as $300,000 coffee pots.
We have learned in wars, riots, natural disasters it is the foot soldier, beat patrolman, firefighter or coast guard that makes the real difference.


Tamir Z. Sagie August 16, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I agree with the comments made by Bob and Dave.

TopEyeView is not used to replace, but rather to supplement and enable law enforcement and security personnel on the ground.
With the additional real time video feed from a bird’s eye view, we enable these combined resources to be more effective.
By addressing larger areas and objects of interest, clients realize increased efficiencies and reduced overall cost of operations, equipment, and surging fuel costs.

We appreciate your input.
Please contact us with any further thoughts or ideas you may have.

Tamir Z. Sagie
TopEyeView, Inc.



Montana August 16, 2008 at 5:00 pm

I found this so enlightening and in a way that even this old lady could understand.
Thanks for the heads up and I will most definitely pass this on.



Morgan Roebuck August 18, 2008 at 10:55 am

Although there will never be a substitute for effective ground-level patrol, Topeyeview can give officers a clear heads up in dangerous or uncertain situations.
Why simply guess about what’s around the next corner when the technology is in place to prevent all-too-common ambush-style confrontations?
In fact, let’s hope these devices become common fixtures in many cities’ skylines.

Morgan Roebuck
Halifax, Nova Scotia


Josh Zimmer August 18, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Okay, but what caught my ‘eye’ was the application for large events (assuming they are outdoor). I would think the sponsors of those events would love the ability to generate live video feed for immediate size and demographic verification. Plus, think of the web content.



Jean Smillie August 19, 2008 at 6:43 pm

what a great little machine.”I think” enjoy your stories, your folks would be so proud of you


Jason Biggs November 23, 2010 at 9:30 pm

The coast gurad uses a similar system BUT Cubans consistently beat it and get ashore…….. A few month ago 19 cubans were found walking down a road Near Boca Grande FL ( Where G H W Bush has a home…… they had to turn themselves in to a police officer……………. The Coast Guard Blimp is delpoyed about 10 miles north of Key West…….. Cost a few BILLION and IS as USELESS AS many of our elected leaders


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