Two Homeland Security aircraft monitored protests in Louisville Wednesday after a grand jury failed to indict the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor, Motherboard has learned by monitoring Air Traffic Control feeds.
The airspace was crowded with many law enforcement air assets from state, local, and federal departments. DHS flew both an AS50 helicopter and a Cessna 206 spy plane, which did not show up on radar maps but were identified via air traffic control communications.
The night started out with local police helicopters. The Kentucky State Police and Louisville Police Department were soon joined by what first just appeared as blips on the flight tracking website ADSBExchange.com, at around 8 p.m. local time, as night fell. While that certainly doesn’t serve as reliable information it does signal that something else might be airborne. Air traffic control communications are another source that one can tap to determine what’s going on in the sky above and identify any aircraft not showing up on flight tracking websites.
From ATC audio:
“Omaha1 are you also a 206?”
“Omaha1 is an A-Star helicopter AS50”
“Tower, Omaha1 with ya climbing 3500.”
“Omaha2, yes sir we’re done over downtown would like to head up to the North.”
“Omaha” is a frequently used callsign for Homeland Security who prefer the Airbus Helicopter AS350 because they “are the optimal aerial surveillance platform in metropolitan areas because their vertical lift capability and maneuverability enable operations from off airport sites and in close proximity to congested airports,” a DHS fact sheet states. Motherboard cross-referenced the call signs referenced in air traffic control audio with known call signs of DHS aircraft.
The Helicopters are also equipped with night vision and infrared cameras.
The DHS Cessnas “are effective platforms for law enforcement operations within and outside of large metropolitan areas. The aircraft provide better range and endurance than helicopters, and blend more effectively with local traffic to mask the presence of air surveillance, and avoid detection by potential suspects.” They can fly high and they can fly low for a long time, and they evaded public flight tracking efforts last night for the most part.
These aerial surveillance operations are often coupled with advanced cell phone and other signals intelligence gathering, and DHS was just revealed to have targeted protesters in Portland.
Minnesotans rallied and marched in protest of the grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case Wednesday as well. Their protest was also circled by the Minnesota State Patrol, an agency that can often be seen circling protests in that state.