Spy Balloons Give Police New View of Yerushalayim

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Systems via AP video In this image made from video provided by RT LTA Systems, surveillance video of masked protesters is shown on a screen in an office in Yavne, Israel, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/RT LTA)
Systems via AP video
In this image made from video provided by RT LTA Systems, surveillance video of masked protesters is shown on a screen in an office in Yavne, Israel, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/RT LTA)
The RT LTA Systems Skystar aerostat surveillance system currently being used by Israeli police to monitor rioters in Yerushalayim. (AP Photo/RT LTA System)
The RT LTA Systems Skystar aerostat surveillance system currently being used by Israeli police to monitor rioters in Yerushalayim. (AP Photo/RT LTA System)

Israeli police are watching from above in their attempts to keep control in Yerushalayim in the face of the city’s worst wave of terrorism and rioting in nearly a decade.

Police have been flying surveillance balloons over the city’s eastern sector and Old City to monitor protests and move in on them quickly. They say the puffy white balloons, which carry a rotating spherical camera pod, have greatly helped quell the unrest.

The Israeli company that makes the Skystar 180 aerostat system says the balloons can stay in the air for 72 hours and carry highly sensitive cameras.

Rami Shmueli, CEO of RT LTA Systems, said his company gives police a “third dimension” in their quest to quell tensions in eastYerushalayim, where they have to deal with masked youths hurling rocks and firebombs.

“We give them an aerial view of the streets and those people who are throwing stones; we can detect them even if they hide behind buildings or in gardens,” said Shmueli. “When we see them and when we see their activity, we can direct the police forces to their location. And even if they escape we can follow them and make sure that police catch them.”

The helium-filled balloons were successfully used in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip last summer. While various types of surveillance blimps have been used in the area for years, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a strategic decision was recently made to increase their use as part of a broader effort to use the latest technologies.

He said police currently have four surveillance balloons deployed over the capital, and he said there has been a marked decrease in street violence.

The Skystar system is currently also deployed in Afghanistan, Mexico, Thailand, Canada, Russia, in various countries in Africa, and was used for security at the World Cup in Brazil, the company says.