The US government is testing high-altitude balloons manufactured by Sierra Nevada to conduct surveillance over American soil.
The high-altitude balloons are manufactured by Sierra Nevada Corporation, they will cover a large area in the United States’ Midwest. The project is to create a network of high-altitude balloons that will allow tracking any activity on the ground.
The Pentagon is testing the new system that will be used only over the American soil for security purposes, the test phase will involve 25 balloons drifting at 65,000-odd feet and will run from July 12 to September 1.
The tests have been requested by the US Southern Command (Southcom), an Agency which is responsible for disaster response, intelligence operations and security cooperation in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The high-altitude balloons are equipped with hi-tech radars that allow tracking vehicles day or night, in any weather.
“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.” states The Guardian.
“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.”
In July Sierra Nevada obtained a Special Temporary Authorization by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the use of several radio frequencies over the area for communications from the balloons.
“Purpose Of Operation: 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.” states the authorization.
Privacy advocates and American Civil Liberties Union expressed their dissent for any form of wide-area surveillance, including this one.
“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, a senior policy analyst at 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,” he said. “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.”
The Guardian added that Sierra Nevada has supplied Southcom with light aircraft used for surveillance operations conducted over Mexico, Colombia, Panama and the Caribbean sea.
High-altitude balloons are cheaper than planes and can fly for a longer time. The unmanned balloons would be able to remain in the air for days, the planes only a few hours.
“The new balloons promise a cheap surveillance platform that could follow multiple cars and boats for extended periods. And because winds often travel in different directions at different altitudes, the balloons can usually hover over a given area simply by ascending or descending.” concludes The Guardian.“
}The post The US Gov is testing high-altitude balloons for surveillance appeared first on Security Affairs.