The U.S. military is testing surveillance balloons using radar and possibly video to track cars

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Six states will act as a testing ground for a new wave of balloon-based surveillance beacons which are backed by the U.S. military. Documents filed with the FCC and obtained by The Guardian detail an initiative to launch up to 25 unmanned solar balloons that will rove 250 miles across the central U.S. According to the documents, they will '[c]onduct high altitude... tests over South Dakota to provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.' Tests will be conducted by US Southern Command (Southcom), an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. The Guardian reports that balloons are equipped with sensitive radar technology capable of tracking vehicles through inclement weather and during both day and night. According to the report, one radar device is capable of capturing the motion of every car in a 25-mile radius. The breadth of the surveillance will allow the military to track where vehicles come from, essentially'rewinding the tape' on people's movements according to one expert interview by the outlet.


Spy balloons that fly 40km up track drug dealers on the ground

New Scientist

High-altitude balloons called Stratollites might soon be giving the US military and NASA permanent and relatively low-cost eyes in the sky wherever they want. Developed by US firm World View, Stratollites are uncrewed, hydrogen-filled balloons that tour the stratosphere at heights of between 10 and 46 kilometres. As the stratosphere is layered with winds blowing in different directions, a Stratollite's path The balloons are controlled remotely from the ground. World View has used dozens of flights to refine the computer models and algorithms used to navigate the balloons. Along the way, the company claims to have carried out the biggest controlled altitude-change manoeuvre ever by a balloon, switching nearly 8 kilometres in one sweep.


Spy balloons flying 40km up track drug smugglers on the ground

New Scientist

High-altitude balloons called Stratollites might soon be giving the US military and NASA permanent and relatively low-cost eyes in the sky wherever they want. Developed by US firm World View, Stratollites are uncrewed, hydrogen- or helium-filled balloons that tour the stratosphere at heights of between 10 and 46 kilometres. As the stratosphere is layered with winds blowing in different directions, a Stratollite's path The balloons are controlled remotely from the ground. World View has used dozens of flights to refine the computer models and algorithms used to navigate the balloons. Along the way, the company claims to have carried out the biggest controlled altitude-change manoeuvre ever by a balloon, switching nearly 8 kilometres in one sweep.


Jane Poynter wants to send you to the edge of space in a very big balloon

Popular Science

Nothing draws attention to your new product like using it to send fast food into space. In June, Arizona-based World View demonstrated the potential of its pioneering stratollite--a sort of mini satellite that uses a high-altitude balloon to take payloads into the stratosphere--by partnering with KFC to ferry a 5-ounce piece of fried fowl 77,000 feet into the desert sky. "We took a frail chicken sandwich, launched it into space for 17 hours, and when it came back, it was perfect," says World View CEO Jane Poynter.


Texas Border Patrol test camera-toting helium balloons

Daily Mail - Science & tech

The U.S. Border Patrol is considering another type of surveillance balloon that can be quickly moved to spot illegal activity, part of an effort to see if more eyes in the sky translate to fewer illegal crossings. Agents in Texas recently finished a 30-day trial of the camera-toting, helium-filled balloon made by Drone Aviation Holding Corp., a small startup that named former Border Patrol chief David Aguilar to its board of directors in January. The 3-year-old, money-losing company gave Aguilar options that may prove lucrative if it gets more orders for its proprietary model. The tethered balloon, called Winch Aerostat Small Platform, or WASP. The trial comes as agents test hand-launched drones, which are relatively inexpensive but hampered by short battery life and weight limits.