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Science & Technology

Pentagon is testing mass surveillance balloons

August 4, 2019 | Comment icon 8 comments



High altitude balloon trials have been met with criticism. Image Credit: NASA / Paul A. Newman
According to FCC documents, the US military has been experimenting with a new type of mass surveillance.
Offering the option of a cheap monitoring platform that can follow cars, boats and other vehicles over a wide area, high-altitude balloons are currently being taken very seriously by the Pentagon.

Recent trials have seen at least 25 of these solar-powered balloons released over South Dakota.

The balloons are capable of reaching altitudes of 65,000ft and carry hi-tech radar equipment that can be used to track multiple vehicles, both at night and during the day, no matter the weather.

A filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation describes how the technology will "provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats."
Not everyone however is happy about being subjected to this kind of surveillance.

"We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go," said Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Even in tests, they're still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who's driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer's clinic."

"We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States and it's disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (8)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Desertrat56 3 years ago
Big Brother. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by AllPossible 3 years ago
Wow 65,000ft? So they're basically very cheap satellites that don't circle the earth. Wonder how many miles they can see from up there. Maybe 25 balloons can see an entire state?
Comment icon #3 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
If thy want to watch me drive to Walmart they have my permission. No big deal. They already can track all the new cars with their GPS systems and built-in cell phones connectors. The military will benefit from this sort of tech. Day or night it will allow the troops on the ground to know the displacement and movements of the enemy. They were using ballons this way in the Civil War. It isn't a new idea.
Comment icon #4 Posted by and then 3 years ago
There are all sorts of legal entanglements this can lead to.  One could be falsely accused just because their vehicle or phone was tracked while they couldn't prove they'd lost it.  Every bit of freedom we lose to a government is freedom we will never have back without bloodshed.  In case you hadn't noticed - people are no DAMNED GOOD. Putting them in charge of deciding whether your actions are acceptable is a good way to find yourself broke and imprisoned on the whim of someone who isn't even as trustworthy as yourself.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
Strange that they are not tethered or motorized. Going with the wind is a bit hazardous with high tech surveillance system...
Comment icon #6 Posted by pallidin 3 years ago
Let me help you with this: What's the wind speed at 65,000 feet? Not much at all, which is why they float that high.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
yep ! true ! Big drop around 65000ft (20 000m) !
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin 3 years ago
Excellent graph!


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