PIERRE, S.D. — The Pentagon has confirmed that two surveillance balloons have launched from eastern South Dakota as part of a mission to improve high-altitude radar imaging used for weather maritime and terrestrial imagery.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Mitchell, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Defense, in a Thursday, Aug. 8, emailed statement said the launch was part of a project called COLD STAR, coordinated by several DOD offices. The first balloon launched from Baltic, approximately 30 miles north of Sioux Falls, on July 11, and the second on Aug. 7. Both landed in Iowa.
The Guardian first reported that documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission green lit up to 25 high-altitude surveillance balloons to launch from South Dakota and hover over a total of 250 miles and six Midwestern states. The balloons, provided by Sioux Falls-based Raven Aerostar, are reportedly able to track traffic patterns of individual vehicles day or night, rain or shine.
Mitchell said the tests "fully comply with U.S. law, to include the law's prohibition of surveillance activities directed at U.S. citizens." He added that the two balloons did not collect tracking information, and future balloons will not, either.