Texas DPS Has Spent Millions On High-Altitude Surveillance Planes

May 29, 2018

Credit US Army Corps of Engineers

In recent years, the Texas Department of Public Safety has spent more than $15 million on two high-altitude surveillance planes.

And as the Texas Observer reports, the planes typically fly at more than 2 miles above the earth, so they are impossible to spot from the ground, leaving Texans in the dark about whether they’re being watched.

The planes, according to the manufacturer, are capable of tracking people and vehicles from several miles away and transmitting high-definition video overlaid with powerful mapping software in real time to analysts.

In analyzing flight logs and tracking data, the Observer, in partnership with the Investigative Fund, found from between 2015 and 2017, most of the flights were concentrated along the Texas-Mexico border.

The majority of the hundreds of DPS flight logs provide little information about what the planes were looking for. And the purpose of the flights was often unlisted. In other instances, the records contain short explanations such as “border interdiction patrol,” or, in the case of non-border flights, “criminal investigation."