The United States military is now testing high-altitude surveillance balloons across the Midwest, according to documents a military contractor filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The news was first reported by The Guardian.
The filing states the intent of military contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation is to "provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotics trafficking and homeland security threats." The Guardian reported these have been launched and tested across South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois.
The 25 balloons are solar-powered and unmanned. To ensure the largest possible surveillance range, the balloons will not fly at altitudes up to 65,000 ft (for reference, commercial airplanes typically fly between 31,000 and 38,000 ft.) It's worth noting that the Sierra Nevada Corporation also created a technology called the "Gorgon Stare," a state-of-the-art aerial surveillance system. In Greek mythology, Gorgons were cryptids that would turn you to stone if you met their glance.