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These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City

As crowds gather, skies fill with aircraft.

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
Flight activity over Minneapolis.Peter Aldhous/Twitter

With people protesting on American soil and numerous aircraft whizzing above, this past week has seen an unusual surge of domestic aerial activity from the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

In an almost act of surveilling the surveillance back, BuzzFeed News' Peter Aldhous mapped flights by local police, state and federal law enforcement and military planes to create a bird's-eye view of the aerial activity against the protests.

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
NYPD helicopters, NYC, Source: Peter Aldhous/Twitter

The data was gathered from 7 p.m. CT on Friday, May 29 to 7 p.m. Central Time on Sunday, May, 31. 

SEE ALSO: ETHICAL SURVEILLANCE: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SECURITY CAMERAS SPOT GUNS TO PREVENT MASS SHOOTINGS

Tracking the routes by using signals

In order to collect the data, Peter Aldhous used information on the operators in the Federal Aviation Administration's registration database and traced their routes by using data compiled at the crowdsourced flight-tracking website ADS-B Exchange, which is, by site's definition, home to "world's largest co-op of unfiltered flight data."

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
Minnesota State Police and Minnesota National Guard Black Hawks, Minneapolis, Source: Peter Aldhous/Twitter

Peter Aldous wrote that "ADS-B Exchange doesn’t follow requests to block aircraft from being tracked, so it can give a more complete picture of surveillance activity."

Moreover, aircraft operated by the U.S. military were also flagged reportedly, which was how BuzzFeed News was able to record all the flights over the country.

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
"LAPD and LA Country Sheriff over protests in Downtown LA, Hollywood, and Santa Monica." Source: Peter Aldhous/Twitter

Aircraft activity over the protests

The visuals showed the most intense aircraft activity over large demonstrations, some examples being aircraft such as NYPD helicopters, and a Customs and Border Protection Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft, which is a highly capable spy plane.

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
Aldhous wrote, "That's a US Park Police helicopter circling the White House," Washington DC, Source: Peter Aldhous/Twitter

You can head out here to find the responsive maps which you can zoom and click on flight pats to learn more about any specific aircraft.

These Maps Allow You to Find the Police Planes That Surveyed the Protests in Your City
"Oakland Police Department in orange, California Highway Patrol in yellow," San Francisco Bay Area, Source: Peter Aldhous/Twitter

The aim is not collecting intelligence

Between a mail exchange between Minnesota National Guard spokesperson Blair Heusdens and BuzzFeed News, the former denied that the helicopters were there to collect intelligence on protestors. That is a reportedly prohibited activity for the National Guard.

He stated, "Currently we are performing incident awareness and assessment observations in conjunction with civilian law enforcement. As long as Minnesota Guardsmen are performing important, and potentially dangerous missions we will use any asset available to keep them safe."

H/T Buzzfeed News

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