The Department of Defense will spend tens of millions of dollars this year on a number of “surveillance balloons” – high-tech balloons that will be sent to the U.S. border with Mexico for the purpose of detecting drug smugglers.
Stars and stripes reports that the Pentagon recently agreed to spend $ 52.2 million on “operating and maintaining” as many as 18 blimps, also called “permanent threat detection systems” (PTDS) or simply “aerostats”. Such blimps, which they are often equipped with high-capacity sensors and cameras, it can climb to an altitude of some 15,000 feet and reportedly can record ground activities in granular detail. The Pentagon agreement, which is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security, will fund the operation and maintenance of six 17-meter blimps owned by the US Border Patrol and as many as a dozen 22-meter blimps owned by the Ministry of Defense over the next fiscal year. So, the thinking goes, that these bubbly spy spots hovering over the southern sky will help spot criminal activities at the border – especially drug trafficking.
While limited domestic application of the balloon is clearly continuing at least since the 1980s, similar balloons have also been used extensively as American spy tools in the Middle East. Professional bomb manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which produces them, proudly proclaims on its website that dozens of balloons have been “put into action” in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. The point of balloons is largely to automate surveillance and intelligence operations, allowing U.S. authorities to know what’s going on in a particular environment without first deploying real, real people.
Back in the mid-2000s, when he was an aerostat use first started getting more mainstream media coverage, the ongoing commentary was that impoverished cattle goats in Kabul and Kandahar were mostly “embarrassed” that huge narc balloons hovered over them all the time, recording their every move. Some felt that it contributed to a “feeling of oppression.” New York Times article from the period he says.
We’re rewinding a decade or so ahead, and similar types of spy balloons are now increasingly used in the U.S. public. The Pentagon caused controversy in 2019 when the investigation discovered that tested surveillance blimps across the country, which they may have used “Gorgon Stare, ”A sophisticated military surveillance technology that also has equipped with drones. 2015 and the Pentagon lost control of a similar spy blimp, allowing him to sail aimlessly through rural Pennsylvania, where he pulled electrical poles and telephone lines, stopping traffic and causing about 35,000 people to temporarily lose power.