Airborne surveillance craft have a new mission: saving lives

At its core, the new military initiative is about saving lives without placing troops on a foreign tightrope.

Defense Department officials want to draw on the agency's current resource of overhead-surveillance gear -- such as drones, blimps, spy planes and satellites -- to protect people from mass atrocities without force, according to a report by Wired’s Danger Room. Under the new initiative called Mass Atrocity Prevention and Response Operations, DOD would keep an eye out for those who commit mass atrocities or plan violent acts against other groups.

The project’s surveillance arm is picking up steam because of the efforts of Rosa Brooks, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for rule of law and international humanitarian policy, writes Danger Room. Since the fall she has worked diligently to turn MAPRO into a basic military function.

“A big part of that effort is enlisting military tech to provide early warning about where mass murders or rapes are developing,” she told Danger Room.

The program, which has its own 160-page handbook released last year, concentrates on saving lives without putting U.S. troops on a foreign tightrope, the article said.

Deterrence could be a side benefit of the initiative, Brooks said. "... If their boss believes that someday, an international court might enter drone footage as evidence in a genocide trial,” she said.

Future goals of the program could include stopping radio transmissions of would-be genocidaires and posting text and social media alerts to American forces about civilians at risk.