Florida law prohibits police departments from using drones to surveil citizens. So Miami Beach cops instead got a small blimp.
On December 28, MBPD flew a tiny, helium-filled dirigible, or "tethered aerostat," over an Orange Bowl-related party called the Capital One Beach Bash. A camera attached to the balloon monitored the moves of 15,000 patrons, according to a letter City Manager Jimmy Morales sent to the city's commission on January 3.
Amazingly, Morales' letter admits cops bought the "tethered" surveillance balloon to get around the state's ban on police drone surveillance. (The ban, passed in 2015, was dubbed the Freedom From Unwanted Surveillance Act.)
"Due to the legal restrictions placed on police departments under Florida law and because of limited battery life and flight time, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka "drones") are not a current option for the Miami Beach Police Department to monitor crowds from the air at large gatherings at major events," Morales' letter states. "As crowds at major events here in the city have increased in size over the years, and given the emergence of new threats of terrorism seen around the world in such large gatherings, the department sought to acquire a new technological solution for aerial monitoring."
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