Eye in the Sky

Fat Albert spots smugglers

High over Cudjoe Key, Fla., Fat Albert sways lazily in the breeze, but he is in fact a tireless worker. This 200,000-cu.-ft. helium balloon is one of three deployed in Florida and the Bahamas that are on the lookout for drug smugglers and helping with other intelligence-gathe ring activities.

The 175-ft.-long balloons are linked to ground stations by steel cables. Hanging from their bellies are 1,000-lb. platforms with $3.5 million in sophisticated radar equipment similar to that carried by AWACS planes. Though the balloons have been known to come unleashed (one wanderer had to be shot down in 1981), airborne radar...

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