July 7, 2008 Video capture and transmission technology has become so compact, reliable and cheap that remote-controlled spy-cams are making their way into general military use in a variety of creative packages. That seagull bobbing quietly up and down on the water, for example, could be one of Macroswiss's electrically-propelled remote control surveillance cameras. The company also manufactures small gun-mounted targeting cameras that allow operatives to point their firearms around corners and shoot whatever's on their wrist-mounted screen like it's a video game. And then there's the short-range throwing camera, which can be lobbed grenade-style into a dangerous or hostile area. It automatically rights itself and transmits a remotely-controlled rotating view back to an assault team so there's no surprises when they enter the area.

Quality visual information at critical times can prevent needless casualties in modern urban warfare, as the U.S. Army is well aware. New technologies with the potential to save lives by exposing both soldiers and innocent civilians to fewer risks make both economic and political sense, which is why quickly-deployable and remote-controllable camera equipment is filtering into more combat operations.

Macroswiss, a specialist surveillance equipment provider to the U.S. Army among other organisations, has developed a fascinating range of close-range and unmanned spy-cam equipment that tilts the odds in favour of the informed.

Its Hydrobot surveillance camera masquerades as a seagull sitting on a water surface, but when viewed from beneath it's actually a remote-controlled, twin-propeller camera droid that transmits visuals back to home base where a surveillance target is visible from the water.

The Guncam mounts to a pistol or larger weapon in a similar way to a laser sight. It's unobtrusive and compact, transmitting live video from the muzzle of the gun back to a wrist-mounted receiver. The operator can simply point his gun around a corner to see what lies in wait, and if threats are detected, he can fire on them using the Guncam as a targeting system and exposing only the tip of his weapon to the enemy. Macroswiss also makes a compact video recording system that can be used for training exercises, or evidence where police or military accountability is paramount.

The short-range throwing camera is a very handy tool for assault teams preparing to enter hostile areas. It can be thrown, grenade-style, into a room, around a corner, or down a stairwell, at which point it immediately rights itself and begins transmitting video from a 360-degree rotating camera. Operators can control the camera's rotation and stop it to set up a fixed surveillance camera in unsecured areas.

Land mines, while an effective way of destroying many armoured vehicles and enemy personnel, have come under fire from humanitarian groups due to their tendency to kill and injure innocent civilians who happen to walk or drive over them. Macroswiss's solution is the Claymore Camera, which gives a land mine "eyes" and enables remote controlled detonation so that the target can be engaged at the most effective time, while minimising the chance of 'collateral damage.'

Macroswiss recently signed on as the U.S. Army's provider of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), and to this end has released large and small versions of its Spybot amphibious all-terrain remote control camera vehicle. Running on large paddle wheels that enable good traction on earth, concrete, mud or water surfaces, the Spybots are simple to use and ruggedly built. The smaller Spybot Micro is tough enough to be thrown some distance into its operational area, and will operate just as happily whichever side it lands on. While these are simply moving camera platforms at present, it doesn't take too much imagination to see an armed spybot over the horizon with the ability to target and shoot, deploy teargas or smoke, or even detonate as a moving mine.

With remote control equipment becoming more and more sophisticated, it looks as though there might be a genuine military use for all the video game practice the average western teenager now indulges in. Will soldiers of the future list 'Playstation Thumb' among their occupational hazards?

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