Mass surveillance: Pentagon relies on espionage balloons in the stratosphere


Satellites, planes and drones are no longer enough for the Pentagon. The US military is now piloting flying balloons powered by solar power across a number of states in the Midwest in the stratosphere for wide-area surveillance of humans and objects on Earth. The unmanned aerial vehicles, which are located at altitudes between 18 and 20 kilometers, are equipped with sophisticated radar systems and video cameras so that they can track the movements of cars or boats unnoticed out of the sky in all weathers.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) arms and aerospace corporation an experiment on an approximately 400-kilometer test track over Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois Special permit granted, This refers to the data connection of the monitoring systems by mobile radio with each other and with ground stations partly via so-called mesh networks in the radio spectrum at 2.3 and 9.5 GHz.

The trial operation is initially limited to the period from 12 July to 1 September. According to the license, the technology should serve to identify and prevent drug trafficking and "threats to internal security".

The Guardian reports more details: So the test is to run with up to 25 balloons and have been commissioned by the Southern Command (Southcom) of the Pentagon. This department is responsible for disaster and intelligence operations and security co-operations in South and Central America and the Caribbean. It coordinates units of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and special forces. One of her key tasks is to identify drug trafficking in the direction of the US and, if possible, to intercept it.

The radar technology used is, according to the report, designed to detect and track all movements, for example of vehicles in a 40-kilometer-wide strip below the balloon. This is probably due to the video surveillance system developed by SNC Gorgon starlings It includes nine high-resolution cameras that can simultaneously capture panoramic images of a city-sized area. So far Gorgon Stare has been used on drones or zeppelins, among others.

Producer of the used stratospheric balloons is, according to the newspaper the company Raven Aerostar, which has its own launch pad in South Dakota and also manufactures the aircraft for Loon. The daughter of Google mother alphabet wants to provide parts of the earth with Internet and mobile from high altitude. Raven advertises that the balloons can stay in the air for up to a month.

The flying celestial eyes are traded in military circles as a cheap and long-lasting alternative, in particular to previous manned surveillance aircraft. For navigation, the research institute of the Pentagon, the DARPA, has already developed a special wind sensor. He should ensure that high-flying balloons always catch the right flow and so permanently observe a particular area. In the area of ​​the stratosphere, winds at different heights blow in different directions. DARPA's special lidar system helps to always find the desired direction by changing the height of the balloon.

But strong headwind comes from US civil rights activists. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describes it as "disturbing" that relevant tests have even been approved by the military. American cities should not be monitored extensively with facilities that could also shadow individual vehicles. Even with such a test run, a vast amount of data would be collected, such as who went to the union, the church, the mosque, or the Alzheimer's Clinic.


. (tagsToTranslate) Drug Trafficking (t) Drones (t) Vehicle Detection (t) Pentagon (t) Radar (t) Satellite (t) Stratospheric Balloon (t) Internal Security (t) Surveillance