Is Someone Scanning the Earth? The Mystery of
the Barcodes Painted on the Ground Across the World
QR code-like patterns are painted across dozens of locations in
look rather similar to something you might be shown by an optician,
they are not God's equivalent to an eye test. They are meant for
another kind of all-seeing eye.
The car park
size patterns are used to calibrate the lenses of high-powered aerial
and satellite cameras, of the kinds used by paranoid nations to
keep an eye on their global rivals.
tri-bar test pattern off the runway at Walker Field, Maryland: These
mysterious QR code-like patterns painted across dozens of locations
in the U.S. are used to calibrate airborne and satellite cameras
origin, it appears that most of them were put in place in the Fifties
and Sixties, as the U.S.-USSR superpower arms race led to the unprecedented
fears of mutual annihilation.
has been highlighted by a recent newsletter
by the U.S.-based Center for Land Use Interpretation, a group
dedicated to researching 'human interaction with the Earth's surface'.
sites follow a general form established by the U.S. Airforce and
NASA, the CLUI notes.
of a concrete pad measuring 78ft by 53ft and coated in a heavy black
and white paint, they are decorated with patterns consisting of
parallel and perpendicular bars in 15 or so different sizes.
sometimes referred to as a 5:1 aspect Tri-bar Array, is similar
to those used to determine the zoom resolution of microscopes, telescopes,
cameras, and scanners.
function like an optician's eye chart, with the smallest group of
bars discernable marking the limit of the resolution for the camera
being tested, according to the CLUI.
photography, it provides a platform to test, calibrate, and focus
aerial cameras traveling at different speeds and altitudes,' the
can also be used in the same way by satellites.'
A tri-bar test pattern on the Photo Resolution Range at Edwards
Airforce Base in California: California's Mojave desert is a resolution
test target hot spot and is where many of the U.S.'s surveillance
planes are tested
tri-bar array at Fort Huachuca, Arizona: The targets function like
an optician's eye chart, with the smallest group of bars discernable
marking the limit of the resolution for the camera being tested
Mojave desert, a principal test location for U.S. surveillance aircraft
like the SR-71 Blackbird and the U2, and more recently unmanned
drones, is a resolution test target hot spot.
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