Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 22, 2023

Surveillance Balloons Over Winnemucca, Navajo and Hopi Lands

Aerostar helium balloon photo by Aerostar

Surveillance Balloons Over Winnemucca, Navajo and Hopi Lands

By Brenda Norrell, Censored News, Monday, August 21, 2023

WINNEMUCCA, Nevada -- A surveillance balloon was over Winnemucca today at 1:30 a.m., the same day that Paiute Shoshone announced that they asked the Nevada court to dismiss charges filed by Lithium Americas against those defending the Paiute Massacre Site at Peehee Mu'huh, Thacker Pass.

The surveillance balloon over Winnemucca shows no registered owner.

The balloon was in international waters northwest of Santa Barbara, California, lingering there, as shown on flight radar, before traveling over Winnemucca today. 

(Above) HBAL649 over Winnemucca today as shown on Flightradar24. Screenshot by Censored News.

Aerostar Surveillance Balloon: Oklahoma, Acoma Pueblo, Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation

A second balloon has spent the past week passing over Indian country. It is registered to Aerostar, which has a military contract for surveillance and intelligence.

This balloon floated across Oklahoma, then north of Acoma Pueblo, before floating across Navajo and Hopi lands in the Black Mesa area. It then crossed above the Grand Canyon and is now above Shoshone lands near Elko, Nevada.

Aerostar, based in a rural area near Sioux Falls, South Dakota, says balloons are better for surveillance than drones, which fly lower, and better than satellites, which fly higher, move faster and are more expensive.

Aerostar says on its website it offers "persistent surveillance."

"Our lighter-than-air platforms have helped NASA, Google, the U.S. Air Force, and many other customers achieve and exceed dynamic missions, including communications, data relay, surveillance, intelligence, and more," Aerostar said.

Aerostar received a contract from the Department of Defense in July 2023 (contract number FA868423-D-B116), bundled in a massive military contract for innovative new technologies.

(Below) The path of Aerostar's surveillance balloon from north of Hopi land on the Navajo Nation, over the Black Mesa area, is shown. It then crossed over the Grand Canyon region and traveled to Nevada, where it is currently. The surveillance balloon, HBAL 653, was shown earlier crossing Oklahoma and then north of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. It is registered to Aerostar.

Screenshot by Censored News

Aerostar's use of the balloons comes after Google canceled plans to use those for rural internet.

In September of 2021, Google discontinued its use of balloons in the Loon Project which was to deliver internet. Raven Aerostar of Sioux Falls acquired the intellectual property of the balloons, Sioux Falls Business reported.

Google parent company Alphabet Inc. decided to wind down its efforts to use stratospheric balloon technology to deliver internet service to remote areas of the world, but partner Raven Industries has acquired much of the intellectual property related to the program.

Known as Project Loon, it developed an autonomous constellation of high-altitude balloons for communications.

“For the past nine years, Raven partnered with Loon on the development of this unique technology. Loon launched and navigated thousands of balloon platforms to help serve its mission. In parallel, we leveraged the Loon partnership and our 60-year history of balloon expertise to design and build our Thunderhead stratospheric platform,” Jim Nelson, division manager of Raven Aerostar, said in a statement. 

The balloon over the Grand Canyon last week is a third balloon, owned by World View of Tucson. It plans balloon luxury trips to the stratosphere for $50,000 next year, with a lounge and internet in a cabin beneath the balloon, with ground tourism to Navajo and Hopi lands, the company said.

At the same time, World View has partnered with an international defense contractor, Sierra Nevada Corp., which said it has been completing a defense contract for the U.K. for surveillance and reconnaissance over the Grand Canyon.

Sierra Nevada said it fulfills the U.K. defense contract with balloon departures from Page, Arizona. 

Read more at Censored News:

Water Protectors sued by mining company ask court to dismiss charges

Tucson tourism/spy company plans trips to the stratosphere and Navajo Hopi tourism

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Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. May not be used without written permission or with advertising, or for any commercial or revenue-producing purpose.

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