The U.S. military is using solar-powered balloons to spy on parts of the Midwest

Surveillance Balloon
The U.S. military is using surveillance balloons like this one to spy on the Midwest.

The U.S. military is using balloons to monitor activity across six states in the Midwest. The 25 solar-powered balloons are reportedly being used to monitor portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

The military filed a Special Temporary Authorization for the balloons with the FCC this week, according to the Guardian. The purpose of the balloons according to that filing is to “conduct high altitude MESH networking tests over South Dakota to provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”

The filing was made “Sierra Nevada Corporation” which is an aerospace and defense company. The balloons are being launched from South Dakota, according to the Guardian.

The balloons are capable of tracking multiple individuals or vehicles during the day or night. They’re also already recording, so should an event happen in an area being surveilled by the balloons, they’ll be able to essentially rewind the tape and see what occurred as well as where any potential suspects might have traveled.

Tests with the balloons reportedly began in July and will continue through September. Presumably, if they’re successful they might continue after that September stop date or be deployed elsewhere. The balloons travel at height of up to 65,000 feet and can adjust their location if need be to get a better view of a particular person or area or to deal with weather conditions.

The fact that we’re all being watched shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, although the fact that the surveillance is coming from giant un-manned solar-powered balloons is certainly a bit different.

The U.S. government also isn’t the biggest offender when it comes to invading privacy.  For instance, last year we wrote about new video surveillance systems in India that are using AI to detect crimes in process as well as predict a crime before it happens.

The notion of predicting crime before it happens is particularly troublesome in that it is identifying individuals and in a way accusing them of criminal behavior even though at the time they haven’t done anything.

We’ve reached out to the military for a comment on why this tech is being used specifically in the Midwest and will update this story if and when we hear back.

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