In one of the more 2020 developments imaginable, the federal government deployed drones and other aircrafts usually used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border to surveil the George Floyd protests in 15 American cities.
Senior officials with Customs and Border Protection told the New York Times that the use of their technology hadn’t violated the protestors’ privacy or safety. The Predator drone flying over Minneapolis wasn’t armed or rigged with facial recognition technology – and besides, they note, it was flying too high to identify individuals or license plates and such.
But there were other eyes in the sky on the protests, too – including a spy plane deployed by the Minnesota State Patrol, according to flight records.
VICE requested several days’ worth of video from the drone to see exactly what this technology was capable of. Unfortunately, the publication says, it didn’t manage to get any footage of the protests. That stuff is being withheld pending active investigations.
Police did, however, release this footage taken on the night of June 4, from 5,700 feet above Minneapolis.
The 20 minutes of video – which represented "all video from [VICE's] data request that was available" -- is a lot of slow drifting over gray houses, cars, and streets. That is, until a Gatsby-esque flash of green blossoms from one of the yards.
It’s a laser pointer being aimed directly at the plane from the ground. VICE speculates that it might have been people attempting to blind either the pilot or the plane’s instruments.
Moments later, police roll in and surround said people. The Minnesota State Patrol told Vice the details of the laser incident – and any potential charges related to it – were also under investigation.