Near the banks of the Rio Grande, U.S. Border Patrol agents monitor a tethered balloon that carries a camera that can zoom in on a license plate miles away.

On a ranch off Penitas’ South Main Street, the 55-foot-long surveillance balloon, called an aerostat, arrived as Army surplus from America’s conflicts in the Middle East. It rises like a blimp from this tiny farm town less than a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’re primarily an eye in the sky for everyone,” Assistant Patrol Agent-in-Charge Lee Allbee told the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen, referring to the region’s law enforcement agencies. “In the last few years we’ve made great advances in bringing technology to the border.”

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