Big Brother always innovates.
As reported by the Miami New-Times on Wednesday, attendees at a Dec. 28 beach party held for the Orange Bowl might have noticed a small blimp passing overhead. As it turns out, the blimp—technically a tethered aerostat, a device now widely used by the United States and others in war zones—belonged to the Miami Beach police department, who were using their newest toy for surveillance.
The reason the cops went for the air-filled balloon with the word “POLICE” plastered on the sides was because Florida police are prohibited by state law from using drones to surveil citizens. The law, known commonly as the Freedom From Unwanted Surveillance Act, was passed in 2015; since then, Florida police have repeatedly attempted to circumvent the restriction. As the New-Times reported, Miami Beach police had used a similar device to the blimp to monitor the beach in 2017 “but did not find it useful.” They trotted it out again for spring break and Halloween in 2018 before making the decision to use public funds to purchase the blimp outright this winter.
The blimp is actually the second aerial device deployed by Florida police to spy on citizens. Miami-Dade County police tried to quietly deploy small Cessna planes to monitor the county before the New-Times broke the story and Floridians collectively screamed at the police, forcing them to shutter the program.
As multiple companies that sell the blimps refer to them as drones, the question remains whether the remote-controlled blimp actually complies with state law. Until that gets sorted out, Miami citizens better get used to seeing the tiny balloon floating over them while they try to take in some rays and get shithouse drunk.