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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's the buzz?

I have missed it, but my neighbors here in inner northeast Portland have been asking me why that small plane has been circling over our houses for the last couple of days. No doubt another Big Brother project. Anyone out there know what it's about?

Comments (21)

A few years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a small plane that seemed to be circling near my house for over an hour. I called a number related to air traffic to complain, thinking that some insomniac small aircraft owner was up there making sure no one else could sleep since he couldn't. The person in charge of dealing with such complaints called me back a few days later and said that that small plane was probably part of law enforcement monitoring an apprehension from the air in the event of a pursuit. Small planes are less likely to tip off offenders than a helicopter hovering, I guess.

He also mentioned that some time back the sheriff's office used small planes equipped with thermal detectors to identify grow houses, though I would guess much of Portland would be lit up like a Christmas tree if they tried that now.


Was it painted black without tail numbers?

For what it's worth, I've noticed some increased air traffic over inner SE. It briefly reminded me of the terror drills that were conducted last summer, except that it wasn't a whole bunch of helicopters flying so low as to trim some of the trees as they go by (and, by the way, be able to recognize people with assault rifles in the doors)...

If you recall, a similar thing happened over the mosque area by PCC Sylvania a while after 9-11. At that time a suspected terrorist's activities were being monitored. I live north of that area at an elevation and a friend is south at a similar elevation. We used to call each other up when we heard the plane on its very regular morning rounds, and we knew what it was flying over. This went on for weeks, "The agents are back in the air, monitoring the mosque! Say hi to your boys!" We had it figured out months before Margie Boulle (sp?) "broke" the news in her column in the "O." Kind of obvious, especially for those who work out of home, when the droning lasted for hours on end.

No - it was a small white plane and flying rather high. It circled for hours over the NE 20's in Irvington on Monday afternoon / evening and again during Tuesday morning / afternoon. I did not see it last night. It was sort of like an annoying mosquito ...

I noticed it too -- a constant drone all afternoon. A quick look with binocs showed something sticking out of the side that looked like a large camera.

Oh Jack,

Me thinks you have finally pissed off the wrong people!


It was most likely a plane being used by the Portland Police. They occasionally do this to look for illegal pot gardens. I have a cousin on the force and in his rookie days he pulled this assignment once. They lay on their stomach in the plane facing backwards. Not a job for someone with motion sickness.

You can always call the Port of Portland Noise Management Department and inquire about noise issues with aircraft.
The numbers are for Oregon: 503-460-4100 and for Washington: 800-938-6647.
They have access to a lot of tracking information that could be helpful.
Also you can access the Noise Management Office via the Port of Portland website at

Well, according to the news, there was a search warrant served and a car stopped in inner NE related to the murder this weekend. You could probably draw some conclusions from that.

I think the Google folks flew over last week. It was a blue and white helicopter with a FLIR style camera attached below the nose.

I saw it go back the other direction about ten minutes later and a quarter mile to the north. It was obviously doing a grid.

I didn't have the presence of mind to raise the digital salute.

My son lives in Korea Town in Los Angeles. LA Police Helicopters patrol the neighborhood on a constant basis. When you go out for a walk it can be a little unnerving. On the other hand, considering the crime stats its kind of nice to know that someone is watching...

I think the Google folks flew over last week.

Google taking aerial photography? My understanding is it buys its aerial imagery from DigitalGlobe. Of course, it does take ground pictures for its Street View feature, occasionally with unfavorable results.

"Google taking aerial photography? My understanding is it buys its aerial imagery from DigitalGlobe. Of course, it does take ground pictures for its Street View feature, occasionally with unfavorable results."

However, the imagery from DigitalGlobe for the Portland area is woefully out of date. They might be using a different provider to get some up-to-date images.

It's Air Diogenes, preparing for the recall.

Unlike Los Angeles, we have no police helicopters in Portland and just because the police spot a pot garden, does not make it illegal.

I had a similar situation last year, and called the airport - don't recall what phone number - but I was told that it was a Portland Police department aircraft, and it turned out they were circling in the Madison High school area after reported shootings there (or nearby) during a football game. Would also guess it was related to the capture of the suspect in the murder of the woman from Jefferson High.

The plane, Boss. The plane.

Tom Tschida/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images

Terminator Planet: Launching the Drone Wars, by Tom Engelhardt, April 8, 2009.

In 1991, after 73 years, the Soviet Union, that Evil Empire, simply evaporated, leaving but a single superpower without rivals astride planet Earth. And then came the unexpected thing: the arms race, which had been almost a century in the making, did not end.

The Pentagon and the military-industrial complex surrounding it -- including mega-arms manufacturers, advanced weapons labs, university science centers, and the official or semi-official think tanks that churned out strategies for future military domination -- went right on. After a brief, post-Cold War blip of time in which "peace dividends" were discussed but not implemented, the "race" actually began to ramp up again, and after September 11, 2001, went into overdrive ....

As you sit in that movie theater in May, actual unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)..., will be patrolling ... hunting down human beings. And in the Pentagon and the labs of defense contractors, UAV supporters are already talking about and working on next-generation machines.

This brings us to our present unbalanced world of military might in which the U.S. accounts for nearly half of all global military spending and the total Pentagon budget is almost six times that of the next contender ....

... let's get back to UAVs. ... the Predator, costs only $4.5 million a pop, while the most advanced model, that Reaper -- both are produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego -- comes in at $15 million. ... It's lucky UAVs are cheap, since they are also prone to crashing. Think of them as snowmobiles with wings that have received ever more sophisticated optics and powerful weaponry.

They came to life as surveillance tools ...

... but don't for a minute imagine that those hunter-killer skies won't someday fill with the drones of other nations. After all, one of the truths of our time is that NO weapons system, no matter where first created, can be kept for long as private property. Today, we talk not of arms races, but of "proliferation," which is what you have once a global arms race of one takes hold.

Already the skies are growing more crowded. ... And naturally enough, we don't want other countries' drones in "our" airspace, though that's hardly likely to stop them.

... some Reapers will have a far more sophisticated sensor system with 12 cameras capable of filming a two-and-a-half mile round area from 12 different angles. That program has been dubbed "Gorgon Stare", but it doesn't compare to the future 92-camera Argus program whose initial development is being funded by the Pentagon's blue-skies outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

... meantime, BAE Systems already has a drone four years into development, the Taranis .... Initial trials of a prototype are scheduled for 2010.

They're bringing the war ... back home. -- Firesign Theatre

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The economy, PPD. Be economical.

British Police’s New Spy Drone, By David Hambling, WIRED, September 20, 2007.

British police are now using the Microdrone from German company Microdrones GmbH ...

As the video below shows, its something of a contrast to the Honeywell craft we looked at earlier ....

It contains some footage shot from a Microdrone .... Zooming in on a sunbather in a bikini as a demonstration is not likely to allay fears about how intrusive this technology might be. And the ability to hover outside a window and peer in ....

... military purposes is one thing, but when the police have them the discussion is completely different. Although in principle it won’t allow them to spy on anything that couldn’t already be seen from a helicopter, small and cheap MAVs are likely to be much more common.


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