Surveillance Balloons : The Eye In The Sky Gathering Information — Layman's Terms Skip to content
Surveillance Balloons Explained In Simple Terms

Surveillance Balloons : The Eye In The Sky


Surveillance balloons, also known as "spy balloons" or "observation balloons," are giant hot air balloons that float in the sky with cameras and sensors attached to it. It monitors and records real-time information that is useful to the person/organization using them.They have been used for various purposes throughout history.

One of the earliest known uses of surveillance balloons was during the American Civil War when Union and Confederate forces used balloons to gather intelligence and observe enemy positions. In World War I, surveillance balloons were used for reconnaissance and to monitor enemy positions and movements.

In more recent times, surveillance balloons have been used for border surveillance, monitoring of large events, environmental monitoring, and other purposes. Surveillance balloons have sometimes been used for telecommunications and internet services, particularly in remote or hard-to-reach areas.
Overall, surveillance balloons have been driven by the need for real-time data gathering from a unique perspective and their ability to provide a wide coverage area with minimal infrastructure and staffing requirements.

The Cost of Surveillance Balloons

Spy BalloonA Stratollite balloon Steven Meckler/World View | New Scientist

The cost of a surveillance balloon can vary greatly depending on its specifications and capabilities. Basic surveillance balloons can cost several thousand dollars, while more advanced systems with high-resolution cameras, advanced sensors, and other efficiencies can cost several hundred thousand dollars or more.

Factors contributing to the cost of a surveillance balloon include the altitude it is designed to operate at, the size and weight of the balloon, the payload capacity, and the level of communications and data processing systems required.
Surveillance balloons are generally more cost-effective than traditional aircraft-based surveillance systems, requiring less infrastructure, manpower, and maintenance.

United States' Use of Surveillance Balloons

The United States government has used surveillance balloons for border surveillance, particularly along its southern border with Mexico. The aerostat system and the JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) tethered balloons carried cameras and other surveillance equipment that provided real-time intelligence gathering along the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

The JLENS system is a more advanced system that uses two tethered aerostats equipped with radar to provide a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and is used to detect incoming missiles and other potential threats. In addition to these systems, the US military has used surveillance balloons for battlefield surveillance and intelligence gathering, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. These balloons were used to provide real-time monitoring of conflict zones and other areas of operations.

America's use of surveillance balloons reflects the country's investment in advanced surveillance technologies and its efforts to enhance its national security and improve its ability to monitor and respond to potential threats.

China's Use of Surveillance Balloons

China has used surveillance balloons for a variety of purposes, including border security, surveillance of sensitive areas, and intelligence gathering as well. China has developed a range of domestic surveillance balloons and has also imported advanced systems from foreign manufacturers.

China has been using surveillance balloons for border surveillance in recent years, particularly in border regions with India and along its coastlines. In addition to using surveillance balloons for border security, the country has been known to use them for environmental monitoring and disaster.

For example, during a recent hurricane in southern China, surveillance balloons were used to gather real-time data on the storm's strength and movements and assess the damage caused by the storm. The balloons provided a unique perspective on the disaster and allowed disaster response teams to quickly identify areas needing assistance and respond more effectively.

China's Surveillance Balloon Spotted February 1st, 2023

China Spy BalloonPhoto of a suspected Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace.

Beijing has recently come under fire after its surveillance balloon entered U.S. airspace. The balloon was first spotted over Billings, Montana, on February 1st, 2023. The Pentagon, the headquarter of the United States Department of Defense, was notified and tracked the surveillance balloon. The balloon's flight path hoovered over the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and Canada before reaching the United States, floating approximately 60,000 feet above the ground. The surveillance balloon was later shot down.

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