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A biological battlefield: The potential applications of using remote sensing technology and biomarker organisms for identifying, tracking, and differentiating persons of interest within an area of operations

Since World War II, the majority of American wartime engagements have been characterized by a series of low-intensity, asymmetric conflicts. These conflicts have increased the importance of understanding the dynamics of individual actors within complex battlespaces which in turn has led U.S. military commanders, intelligence professionals, and wartime decision makers to seek a variety of means for identifying, tracking, and differentiating persons of interest. From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, the process of understanding the movements and activities of hostile actors has become paramount to successful military targeting and combat operations. Over the last 50 years, the military and intelligence communities have developed a plethora of technologies capable of accomplishing this task to include overhead satellites, infrared imaging, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), advanced biometrics, and host of other personnel identifying and tracking technologies. While these technologies have closed the gap in enabling U.S. military and intelligence professionals to understand the human aspect of the battlespace, there are still significant challenges in uniquely identifying the movements and activities of specific persons or groups of persons.

            Given the above outlined challenge of understanding the battlespace, this article will explore an alternative means of identifying and uniquely tracking individuals. Specifically, this article will explore the combined use of remote sensing technologies and genetically engineered biomarkers in order to uniquely identify, track, and differentiate persons of interest. Such a combination of two disparate technical fields would be technologically challenging both within the biological and remote imaging scientific fields, thus emphasizing the paramount importance of combining biological markers with distinct signatures that are detectable by specific and technologically matching visualization means. In addition to discussing the technical challenges associated with such a combination of technologies, this article will also discuss both the potential military benefits and negative implications this process could have in ethical, legal, and diplomatic terms. At the conclusion of this article, the reader should have a fundamental understanding of how remote sensing technologies and biomarkers can be combined to better understand the battlespace as well as the possible implications of this technological paring.