An Illinois hobby group is wondering if one of the unidentified flying objects shot out of the sky by a jet fighter’s sidewinder missile might have been their humble radio-equipped balloon.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade declared one of its exploratory “pico balloons” missing Wednesday, according to Aviation Week.
The balloon’s last transmission reportedly came from 38,910 feet above the Alaskan coast on Feb. 10, headed toward the Yukon Territory. The next day, U.S. officials said an F-22 downed an object floating over that area at 40,000 feet.
Pico balloons seemingly bear a resemblance to the objects shot down over Alaska, Canada and the South Carolina coast in recent days. They can be as cheap as $12, Aviation Week said.
The AIM-9x missiles being used to shoot down unmanned balloons in recent days are 10-feet long and cost upward of $450,000.
Pico balloons are reportedly exempt from most Federal Aviation Administration airspace restrictions because they weigh fewer than six pounds.
“I’m guessing probably they were pico balloons,” hobbyist and Amateur Radio Roundtable host Tom Medlin told Aviation Week when discussing the fighter jets’ targets.
He claims to have three balloons currently floating over two hemispheres.
Aviation Week unsuccessfully reached out to government agencies including North American Aerospace Defense Command to see if the objects shot down over the weekend may have been pico balloons and got no answers.
Concern about objects floating over U.S. airspace began earlier in the month when a 200-foot Chinese balloon U.S. officials said had surveillance capabilities was spotted near Montana military facilities. It was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean Feb. 4.
Late Thursday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called off the search for the unidentified object that was shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday.
The RCMP said the search was suspended because of bad weather conditions and the low probability of the wreckage being found. No debris has been recovered so far.
“After conducting an extensive search in the Lake Huron area with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard and other domestic and international partners, a decision was reached to suspend the search due to several factors including deteriorating weather and the low probability of recovery,” Mounties said in a statement.
They clarified that the search for a different unidentified object that was shot down in the Yukon was ongoing, but expected to take time.
“The conditions are extremely challenging with a very large search area, spanning 3,000 square kilometres, and consisting of rugged and mountainous terrain with a high level of snowpack and harsh winter conditions.”
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