Over the last few years, many government officials have worried about drones being used to spy on the US and sending sensitive data back to China. Well, maybe it is not so much the drones we need to worry about, but balloons. Check out this story about the Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US.

DJI Mavic Pro

Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US

Mark Harris writes for The Guardian:

High-altitude balloons promise a cheap monitoring platform that could follow multiple cars and boats for extended periods

The US military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal.

Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois.

…the balloons are intended to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats”

The balloons are carrying hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather.

The FCC documents show that Southcom’s balloons are carrying small, satellite-like vehicles housing sophisticated sensors and communication gear. One of those sensors is a synthetic aperture radar intended to detect every car or boat in motion on a 25-mile swath beneath the balloon.

The FCC filing notes that this networking includes video information. That suggests that the balloons might also carry a Sierra Nevada video capture system called Gorgon Stare. This wide-area surveillance system comprises nine cameras capable of recording panoramic images across an entire city simultaneously.

“The higher the altitude of the system, the wider the area that you can cover. The trade-off is that depending on the area and the system, you may get lower-resolution images.” Balloons are also subject to fewer restrictions and regulations than drones.

You can read the entire article here.

Stay in touch!

If you’d like to stay up to date with all the latest drone news, scoops, rumors and reviews, then follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTubeInstagram or sign up for our daily email newsletter, that goes out every weekday at 6 p.m. ET.

Buy your next drone directly from manufacturers, such as DJIParrotYuneec or retailers like Adorama, AmazonB&HBestBuy, DroneNerds or eBay. By using our links, we will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping DroneDJ grow!

Photo: Ron Chapple/Alamy


Subscribe to DroneDJ on YouTube for exclusive videos

About the Author