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The observation balloon
Israeli balloon helps secure pope's visit to Colombia
Pope Francis's security detail ditches UAV's in favor of an Israeli-made observation balloon, which proved to be more reliable and costs only a fraction of the price to operate.

For the third time in recent years, Pope Francis's security detail used an Israeli observation balloon to help protect him during his visit to South America.

 

 

Two of the three Masses the pope presided over in Colombia two weeks ago were accompanied by an observation balloon made by the Yavne-based RT Aerostats Systems based.

 

The Israeli balloon has also helped secure the pope during past trips to Africa and Israel.

 

The observation balloon
The observation balloon

 

The observation balloon, which is regularly used by the IDF and the Israel Police, covers a radius of five kilometers.

  

Police in Bogotá and Medellín leased the balloon, with the video feed from it transmitted directly to their headquarters.

 

The balloon then helped scan the large crowds that gathered for the pope, the rooftops in the area and other spots that cannot be seen from the ground.

 

Footage recorded by the observation balloon in Colombia

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"In Medellín, there was heavy fog during Mass, so we were alone in the air, because the helicopters that circled overhead could not see what was happening on the ground," a senior RT official said.

 

"We have recently added a few upgrades to the balloon that secured the pope. In addition to advanced day and night cameras, the balloon can automatically identify suspicious movements, better zoom in on targets we want to follow, and maintain an overview of the entire area even while focusing on a specific target," he added. "We also added filters that 'clean' the image of dirt and condensation."

 

While RT is also developing a variety of UAVs, the company explained the economic advantage to operating an observation balloon, saying the basic operating cost of an observation balloon is $18 per day compared with $600 per hour for an average UAV.

 

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