The US government is testing surveillance balloons that could track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

U2 Spy

  • The United States military is testing a new form of border surveillance technology: high-altitude balloons.
  • The balloons are equipped with radar tech that enables the tracking of multiple vehicles, day or night, in any weather conditions.
  • An FCC filing, first spotted by The Guardian, details the intent of the project: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”
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The United States military is testing a new form of surveillance: high-altitude balloons.

The tests, first discovered by The Guardian’s Mark Harris in an FCC filing, are being conducted in South Dakota through the Sierra Nevada Corporation — a defense contractor employed by the US government. 

The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.

The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”

US Drone

The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois. 

Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.

Read more: Amazon’s home security firm Ring reportedly has partnerships with 200 US police departments and critics say it’s dystopian

The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.

SEE ALSO: More than 900 migrant children have been split from their parents since Trump formally ended family separations last year

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