A mysterious flying object shot down by the US military last week amid hysteria over Chinese ‘spy balloons’ may have been a £10 inflatable belonging to a hobby group.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB) is concerned their research balloon may have been one of the unidentified objects taken out by fighter jets equipped with $400,000 (£330,000) Sidewinder missiles.
The group reported their inflatable as ‘missing in action’ in Alaska on February 15, according to Aviation Week.
NIBBB said the balloon, named ‘K9YO’, last reported its location shortly before 1am GMT on Saturday, February 11 near the coast of southwest Alaska.
Later on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared an ‘unidentified object’ was shot down over Canada’s Yukon territory, several hundred miles from the balloon’s last known location.
Modelling data shared by NIBBB shows its balloon was headed in the direction of Yukon before it vanished, which raises the possibility it may have been one of the suspicious objects targeted by the U.S. military.
Military officials claimed the UFO was a ‘cylindrical, metallic balloon’ equipped with a payload- a description which also fits the profile of the group’s pico balloon.
NIBBB has not confirmed the downed object was definitely their balloon, but a review of the evidence by Aviation Week suggests it may have been the case.
The device in question is known as a ‘pico balloon’, and is used primarily by hobby groups such as NIBBB to relay location data or information about the weather.
The balloons can potentially stay in the air for an indefinite amount of time, and prior to its disappearance had been airborne for over 123 days and had circumnavigated the world six times.
Designed to carry extremely light payloads, Pico balloons weigh less than six pounds and are exempt from the FAA’s airspace restrictions.
Other hobbyists have also speculated that pico balloons could account for some of the mystery objects spotted over the U.S. since a Chinese spy balloon was detected earlier this month.
Ron Meadows, the founder of Scientific Balloon Solutions (SBS), which makes balloons used by hobbyists, told Aviation Week: ‘I tried contacting our military and the FBI—and just got the runaround—to try to enlighten them on what a lot of these things probably are.
‘And they’re going to look not too intelligent to be shooting them down.’
Aviation Week noted that the National Security Council didn’t respond to requests for comment and that the FBI and the Office of the Secretary of Defense ‘did not acknowledge that harmless pico balloons are being considered as possible identities for the mystery objects shot down by the Air Force’
President Joe Biden admitted on Thursday that the Yukon object and two other mysterious aerial objects destroyed by F-22 fighter jets since the Chinese balloon incident were not thought to be surveillance devices.
‘We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon programme, or they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,’ he said.
‘The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions, studying weather, or conducting other scientific research.’
Meanwhile, The White House has announced the creation of a new UFO task force to study the potential security risks posed by new airborne objects detected in US airspace.
Military officials and the White House have also refused to categorically rule out the possibility that aliens could be behind the recent spate of UFO sightings.
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