On Wednesday, Jan. 4, officials with Salt Lake City, Utah’s recreational trails management team had to hike up a mountainside to retrieve a mysterious antenna popping through the snow. But this antenna was not the first they’ve encountered. As many as a dozen have now been found.
“These towers have been bolted into different peaks and summits and ridges around the foothills,” Fonarow told KSL 5 TV in a recent interview.
Fonarow explained that the first one was discovered about a year ago, but they’ve been popping up more and more in recent months.
“It started with one or two, and now it might be as much as a dozen,” he said.
Fonarow said the mysterious devices consist of a locked battery box, a solar panel, connected to an antenna.
Fonarow’s department has been seizing these devices as they’ve found them.
KSL 5 Reporter Michael Locklear tweeted photos from one of the most recent retrieval efforts.
Fonarow told Vice News he initially thought the devices were some kind of equipment to boost cell phone signals.
The Salt Lake City Public Lands department has asked the local population if they know what the devices are or to whom they may belong.
Several people have speculated that the devices could be part of an off-grid cryptocurrency mining operation.
“Those are very clearly off-grid Helium miners. You can likely obtain more information about the owner by matching up the wallet address with the hotspots’ location on the geolocation map at https://explorer.helium.com,” one person said in response to the Salt Lake City Public Lands department’s call for help identifying the devices.
“Helium Network. They used a very similar setup to relay mountain bike speed/gps for races in remote mountains. Could be useful for hikers too,” another user said.
Fonarow said figuring out what these devices do hasn’t been an immediate priority of the public lands department, but officials may soon figure out what they do when they crack open the battery boxes.