Every week the Hackaday editors gather online to discuss the tech stories of the moment, and among the topics this week was the balloons shot down over North America that are thought to be Chinese spying devices. Among the banter came the amusing thought that enterprising trolls on the Pacific rim could launch balloons to keep the fearless defenders of American skies firing off missiles into the beyond.
But humor may have overshadowed by events, because it seems one of the craft they shot down was just that. It wasn’t a troll though, the evidence points to an amateur radio pico balloon — a helium-filled Mylar party balloon with a tiny solar-powered WSPR transmitter as its payload.
The balloon thought to have been shot down was launched by the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, a group of radio amateurs who launch small helium-filled Mylar balloons carrying the barest minimum for a solar-powered WSPR beacon. Its callsign was K9YO, and having circumnavigated the globe seven times since its launch on the 10th of October it was last seen off Alaska on February 11th. Its projected course and timing tallies with the craft reported shot down by the US Air Force, so it seems the military used hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of high-tech weaponry to shoot down a few tens of dollars worth of hobby electronics they could have readily tracked online. We love the smell of napalm in the morning!
Their website has a host of technical information on the balloons and the beacons, providing a fascinating insight into this facet of amateur radio that is well worth a read in itself. The full technical details of the USAF missile system used to shoot them down, sadly remains classified.
132 thoughts on “The USAF (Almost) Declares War On Illinois Radio Amateurs”
They also demonstrated that they can detect, track, and destroy tiny balloons too, without destroying anything of great significance.
Imagine if they got a call for over a million UFO over a city: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/562556/cleveland-balloonfest/
“Scramble everything we got! It’s an invasion!”
Someone should write a song about military forces overreacting to balloons! ;)
Up in the sky, a sight so strange,
A weather balloon, so harmless and plain,
But in the distance, a unit’s view,
The military’s called, what will they do?
USA military forces over-reacting,
To a weather balloon in the sky,
Ready for action, they’re attacking,
But it’s just a harmless device.
The troops are ready, guns in their hands,
Aerial threats, they can’t withstand,
The orders given, the shots are fired,
A simple balloon, now expired.
USA military forces over-reacting,
To a weather balloon in the sky,
Ready for action, they’re attacking,
But it’s just a harmless device.
The skies above, are not a warzone,
But fear can cause actions unknown,
Let’s hope for peace, for cooler heads,
So balloons in the sky, won’t cause such dread.
USA military forces over-reacting,
To a weather balloon in the sky,
Ready for action, they’re attacking,
But it’s just a harmless device.
Let’s learn from this, and take a stand,
To stop over-reactions, in our great land,
For unity, let’s work together,
To make our future, even better.
Why is Neil Young singing this in my head?
You should mention whois author of this extraordinary lyrics… :)
I never claimed to have written. I just posted the lyrics. Yes, it was written by ChatGPT but I was told by chatgpt the responses are public domain. I also argued it in to agreeing that we had collaborated on this song :)
There was an existing song about just this:
99 Luft Balloons by Nena
I heard Dave Mustaine
Excellent. Someone of poetic caliber has risen to the challenge. Gotta love the american way. Get er done.
I saw on one of those vh1 behind the music type shows that during the filming for 99 ballon’s music video, which was filmed against the Berlin Wall, the East German guards where shooting down the released red ballons with small arms. So at least the USA isn’t alone in over reacting to harmless ballons.
nena showed that 99 are enough..
Nena – 99 red balloons – exactly what I was thinking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiwgOWo7mDc
99 left balloons https://youtu.be/Fpu5a0Bl8eY
We’re waiting for your submission
There is it’s known ads 99 luft balloons back in the 80s
It has been already been done in year 1983
Nena – 99 Luftballons
Yep. I always did love the German version of that song better than the English version It just sounds better even though I don’t know German.
They did a German group back in the 80’s called Nina The song is 99lauf balloons 🎈🎈 it’s perfect for this.
99 red balloons.
$400,000 per Sidewinder missile and the first one missed. So $800,000 plus operational costs for the mission. So over $1 million spent shooting down a balloon they could have tracked if NORAD had opened up the HAB webpage to view what was flying where at the time. Military Intelligence really does seem to be an oxymoron sometimes!
I would bet 50 bucks this is not what they shot down. It’s too small. And it’s entirely based on speculation and internet sleuthing.
My thoughts exactly.
But none of your doubts prove that they were enemy devices.
Come to think of it… China is not even an enemy. So even the Chinese ballon was not an enemy device.
Of course, after all the strong words and actions, China *is* now an enemy.
So, assuming that all those very responsible people in responsible places acted very responsibly, it must mean that it was all on purpose.
The unanswered question is: why would all those very responsible people have acted in such a way that they turned China into an enemy?
Perhaps that’s a little gun-gho.
No, can’t be. Those people in command are the most serious and responsible people of the country, right? I mean: they are in positions to cause the world a lot of damage. You don’t give those jobs to gung-ho cowboys.
The first altercation could easily be deem as real. The subsequent altercations are no doubt questionable. Get a load of this folks, the Chinese are laughing their ass off!
You think it’s a big ass joke I for one don’t ! Not to mention your childish idea that that the military used assets to chase them down is funny. Secondly to mention that it passed through the air lanes . You would be laughing if it was involved in a air mishap
At a cost of ~400k per AIM-9A! Amateur balloons like this would cost only a few dollars without the technical oayload. imagine deploying a fleet of thousands of them to swarm an enemy’s air defenses.
You only need 99
So the next thing will be a system with which those outside of government can let the government know about their craft so they won’t get shot down…
And it must be added that hitting a party balloon was definitely not in the specifications for the Sidewinder missile that was used to bring it down. (Or at least I’m assuming it was a Sidewinder.)
Such a system exists for decades, and is mandatory for any “real” aircrafts (transponder).
Its callsign was K9YO.. I think that makes it legal..
Yes. The amateurs file with the FAA before launching. It is a valid amateur device that simply beacons a weak signal of location, and altitude, allowing the measurement of radio signal propagation.
Somebody at NORAD got a little trigger happy. A radio club in Illinois probably got their money’s worth in laughter. NORAD? Not much.
This was my thought upon seeing that.
Had there been sufficient sunlight, it would have been identifying itself every ten minutes.
I’m certain that in close proximity, the WSpr signal could have easily been heard. I am however, curious as to fighter pilots having the ability to hear HF CW?
They may have been broadcasting, but who says anyone was listening? And translating Chinese? In CW? While trying to hit a tiny bobbing balloon, probably with the prez and company gathered around the monitor yelling “your right on top of it, are you blind!
Of course there’s no reason to listen if they had prejudged it a another pesky Chinese spy satellite.
Apparently a explosion is necessary to take down a balloon at that height. A thousand bullets did nothing. This was a earlier stray balloon that proved this. (CBC front burner episode on the balloons for more details)
Sadly, the next thing will probably be more strict regulations on private ballooning.
If anybody currently wants to cost US taxpayers billions of dollars, all they need is a bunch of helium tanks, some latex rubber, and some old ham radios (or probably just any payload whatsoever). Big opportunity for asymmetrical warfare.
A long time ago I remember reading about a guy who built a foam extruder and was doing exactly what you describe.
A foam extruder is a tank that bubbles pressurized gas up through a polymer mixture, so that the polymer sets with captured air bubbles. A box about the size of a washing machine, and a cylinder of foam rises up out of the top in the manner of the foam on a glass of beer. The foam sets, you cut it off with a wire, and you have a cylinder of plastic foam.
In the article, this person found that if you use helium you get a cylinder that’s lighter than air. He then painted them fluorescent colors, put sequins on the surface to make it radar reflecting, and let them go. To the great consternation of fighter pilots in the local air force station.
This was in the era of UFO sightings, around 1965 or so.
In that era we didn’t have cheap solar cells or lightweight integrated circuits, so someone in the modern day could upgrade the technique to the great amusement of just about everyone. A foam balloon would be more robust, because it won’t deflate from a hole.
Since lofting ham radio balloons is apparently legal, you could probably loft one of these as well and explain that you made it radar reflecting and brightly colored precisely to let pilots see and avoid it, and that you used foam instead of a balloon for longer life.
Geez… You’d basically never manage to shoot one down completely. Would just have to wait for it to seep out enough helium in the stratosphere
I wonder whether you can actually get lighter-than-air foam this easily. Some searches point only to research with aerogels and hydrogen, but I can’t find any video of even that actually floating in air.
It would probably depend a lot on the cell size. You can’t really get each cell in the foam for aerogel to get that big afaik, but if you made a polymer foam where the average cell diameter was several centimeters.. It’s effectively just a bunch of balloons stuck together, no reason it shouldn’t work.
I wonder how one controls the cell size for a foam? Viscosity of the liquid polymer? Air pump rate? Orifice diameter?
Why can’t you just bubble helium through the canned expanding foam from Home Depot and then tie a pie tin to the bottom?
so once i tied an empty cocacola can to the string on a party ballon. I don’t know how high it got, but i quickly lost sight of it.
At 30km altitude a baloon has expanded 20 fold! The foam will not do that and cant reach that high, and will not last long because of the pressure differential.
1.5 million balloons. Not one shot down by USAF.
See, stuff like this is why we have garbage patches in the ocean
Back then most would have been latex which is degradable.
They make but degradable balloons. I don’t know if they use them though. We got some for water balloon fights.
This made me recall an article I read last year around this time…a couple in a marina down in Florida had thrown a yacht party the previous night… These balloons did not have helium, they were floor object and kicked out into the water as they popped on or over the surface immediately sank…FOURTEEN HUNDRED ASSORTED COLORED PARTY BALLOONS.
Weird… you would think that with all the fancy expensive devices, they would have listened for the signals and decoded some ham radio beacon… it would have likely led them to the operator, Im sure these guys would have shared info on their ballooon.
Even at 100s of mph, the imaginging systems on jets could likely tell the difference of a ham radio beacon/system and something a bit more government funded.
Funny, I was thinking it might be something like this, I enjoy the high altitude imaging and beacons that I find on youtube.
The transmitter can only transmit when there is sufficient sunlight to power itself.
It had been in the dark for some time when they think it was hit.
Had it been daylight, much different outcome is likely
so, “ballooney” is no longer a spelling mistake?
Duno whats the bid deal. USAF sounds like it needs the practice anyway. They should be thanking us.
It seems that all links to the balloon site (nibbb.org) are broken.
The coincident of independent happenings? Don’t thing so… ;)
Once online – always will!
Their outdated, underpowered webserver was overwhelmed by everyone trying to fact check the news.
It would have served them better to put out a TikTok quickie of a launch.
Last year over Northern Az, I dodged one of these amateur radio balloons at about 9500 MSL (less than 4000 AGL). The balloon was about 1m diameter and pay load was less than 20cm length, so probably was not seen by enroute controllers on their radar. And no ADSB signal was seen.
My nephew caught it on a hi-res digital SLR. Made a report to the FAA. Crickets.
These radio amateurs may eventually down a commercial or GA airplane. They had better get their act together before their ignorance or uncaring attitude legislates them out of the sky.
Exceedingly more likely it was a weather balloon, a massive amount are released every day.
Are transponders cheap enough to be incorporated within balloons such as the presumed amateur radio beacon? Are most commercial and private airplanes equipped with transponder-recognizing and hazard avoidance systems?
Transponders are heavy and power hungry… unpractical for a paraglider with an all up weight of about 100kg. I’d say impossible for a max 1kg balloon payload.
Normal weather balloon radiosondes don’t have ADSB transponders.
“These radio amateurs may eventually down a commercial or GA airplane. They had better get their act together before their ignorance or uncaring attitude legislates them out of the sky.”
That argument is 70 years old or so.
Radio ballons are being used by amateurs since the 1950s or so.
The most funny statement came from a police officer who asked why the balloons don’t evade from other objects.
When the amateur responded, that balloons usually can’t be steered, not even manually by remote, the officer was angry.
He couldn’t believe how someone could release an uncontrolled object into the airs.
But that’s how laymen think. Everything must be under control, must be planned, must object to law.
Even if the radio balloon could go up or down via remote, it would still be at the mercy of the wind.
Which is different in each location, height etc. It’s a lively system in its own reign.
But are balloons really that dangerous?
These ballons are less dangerous than wild birds, afaik.
These party balloons on sugar are fragile, have no bones etc.
And the payload isn’t heavy, either. It’s very fragile, often protected by Styropor or similar material.
If it hits an airplane, it will make a dall or scratch on the hull, maybe.
Or it will slightly damage an engine, at worst.
If the payload falls down, it will start to get slowed down by air.
It maybe will hit the roof of a house, if it hits a window, it won’t even crush.
In the rare case it hits a person, he/she will have a headache or a brain concussion, maybe.
Due to the air resistance, it won’t come down like a bullet.
Just check yourself and throw out an empty box of Styropor out of the window.
It will usually slow down to a level that the box won’t break.
Also, radio balloons can be spotted on radar when they’re too close.
In some countries, no radar reflectors are even required. Though they are recommended, still, of course.
I “tracked down” some outdated links on the BBB website, so I tried my “old standby” and checked Amazon. Sure enough, you can order a dozen 36″ for $14.90 and they’re Prime eligible! https://smile.amazon.com/Balloons-Transparent-Christmas-Birthday-Decoration/dp/B091TZTJS4/
So, what about these being launched in the air as REAL party balloons “that got away”? Are they “dangerous” too? Maybe, if filled with hydrogen instead of scarce helium. The old methane “mine” in south-eastern KS is nearly exhausted (https://www.acs.org/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/heliumnaturalgas.html) but some escapes from volcanoes all the time: https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/helium-escape-may-help-predict-volcanic-activity/.
A Pop Mec article (https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/aviation/a42860821/norad-radar-picking-up-spy-balloons/) stated: “North American Aerospace Defense Command admitted that its sensors were deliberately tuned not to pick up on objects like the spy balloon.”
It’s become all too political: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/lawmakers-slam-pentagon-officials-over-delay-shooting-down-chinese-balloon-2023-02-09/
Maybe, it’s top secret and that’s why we didn’t do more sooner, e.g. they were “listening” to the “real” Chinese weather+ balloon to see what we could learn about their covert communications? I’m just really amazed that a PVC party balloon could float that high for over six days!
Radio amateurs generally use hydrogen in their balloons.
The Chinese balloon shot down in SC was massive. The solar array hanging below it was the size of a small car. It wasn’t a party balloon, or even one that amateur radio enthusiasts use it wasuch bigger. Sub Brief on YouTube has a good breakdown on the size and suspected capabilities.
You got crickets from the FAA because you’re the one in the wrong.
They have add much right to use that air as you do, and you’re bitchin about something less dangerous than the billions of birds on the planet.
I’ve wondered about the liability for the balloon causing an accident for years. I think it’s more likely the balloon will land somewhere causing an accident than an accident happening the in the air. Some accidents I’ve thought of are shorting out power lines or landing on a vehicle’s windshield while it’s traveling at high speed on a highway.
Most amateur balloons will be too small to bridge power lines well, a tree branch would probably be more destructive to power lines than a armature ballon.
It’s unlikely to cause a car accident, from a statistical perspective, you’ve got a 1 in 500,000 chance of landing on a car windshield, but, that’s including parked cars, if you only count cars that actively driving, it’s probably 10 to 100 times less likely.
Based on rough approximation: 1m2 windshield area per car, 1 billion cars, for about 1,000 km2 of area. Earth has >500,000,000 km2 of area, therefore 1/500,000th of Earth’s surface is covered in windshields at any given time.
Note: I’m Talking about small amateur balloons, not ones like the huge monstrosity that kicked off the current insanity.
It was probably a drug shipment from Mexico.
If you had hit it, you’d have been on a “hit list” yourself.
They file with the FAA before launching. Did you before takeoff?
Agreed. They (the hams) can be a peculiar lot. The radio hobby is actually an alternative lifestyle to many. They live and die for it with often no regard for anything else. Now the pranksters will crawl out of the woodwork with their balloons. Playing with fire here…. I’m tired of watching people taking advantage of the freedoms we have in America for their own sake with no regard for anyone else. I quit amateur radio and let my license expire because of them . They like to brag about what they do for “public service”. Many are a mean, spiteful lot.
Those airplanes also have no regard for the radio amateur’s balloons.
What makes airplanes so special that they should be allowed into the air with no provisions at all against collisions with balloons?
I’m not talking about the consequences of such a collision. Obviously they would be severe.
But I’m talking about the lack of preventative measures against collisions with balloons, on airplanes.
The “careless amateurs” launching these balloons strictly adhere to FAR 101, which says any unmoored free balloon under 4 pounds is exempt and has no requirements for FAA reporting, radar reflectors, rope breaking strength, cutdown devices, etc. The last time we tried to report a launch to our local FSS, they were incredulous, paused for a moment, and asked us if the payload was going to contain people
Looks like the nibbb.org site got Hackaday’d down. (Or from other news sites.) But archive.org has the notice and the page from yesterday.
Old and low powered club web server. It’s not like they’re Microsoft or Amazon. All the “fact checkers” overwhelmed it.
Isn’t this still speculation?
Yeah they should be more specific about the “may have been” part. I doubt this was the culprit… Launching a missile to take out such a tiny object? I dunno about that
I don’t remember which news story it was, but I think one of the recent ones mentioned that the balloon was very small compared to the previous ones.
I could honestly see them doing it on purpose to send a message, like: hey, we can detect, track, and destroy even these tiny balloons, so, don’t think you can pull a fast one by just making it smaller.
1 down, 98 to go.
+1 Exactly my thoughts.
I was looking for that reference here.
Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity a bit.
99 pico balloons in the air, 99 pico balloons.
Shoot one down, look like a clown
98 pico balloons in the air.
Brian: ICAO and FAA have already ruled a long, long time ago that such balloons having a payload of less than 6 lbs are perfectly legal to launch and pose no risk to any form of aircraft. Check the FAR’s.
Below is the exact wording of what balloons are subject to FAR’s. The Pico balloons we are talking about weigh far less than 4lbs and thus are exempt.
BTW, they transmit their GPS position via the standard US APRS frequency of 144.36 MHz. It is sent as open frames using AX.25 and anyone can decode them, including folks without Amateur Radio licenses.
From the FAR’s:
(a) This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:
4) Except as provided for in § 101.7, any unmanned free balloon that –
(i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;
(ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;
(iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or
(iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.
Yep. I know – I am a licensed pilot with an instrument rating. I am certain you have heard that FARs are ‘written in blood’. So it is a matter of time before bad stuff happens. A solution would be the availability of dirt cheap ADSB-compatible transmitters that do not have to meet the same specs for GA avionics.
And no, most do not seem to use any sort of packet radio protocols. Ya know, like the balloon that damaged my friend’s KR6. That you and your ilk are covered by the total correctness of FARs, makes me feel so much safer.
I’m a licensed pilot and an Amateur Radio extra class licensee. I’ve been involved in the launch of one of these balloons within Charlie airspace In Houston TX. The balloon launch was completely compliant with FAA regulations and was totally coordinated with them prior to launch. In fact based on input from the FAA this launch was delayed by a couple of hours as per their direction. These are way more complicated than the news is reporting and no you don’t just inflate a balloon and it goes. There are hundreds of weather balloons launched all the time with radiosondes approximately 10 times the size/weight of the ham radio balloon. Their purpose is to ascend to a specific altitude and as the gas in the balloon expands, pop the balloon and drop the radiosondes from the sky. The ham radio balloons typically operate in flight level 500+ and with the exception of transition to final altitude are not within normally used airspace.
BTW up until 19 days after the Biden/Trump election 131 countries had the rights to run surveillance balloons or flights as they saw fit without interference anywhere in the US under the Open Skies Treaty.
A lot of the news and congressional outrage pretends to not know this.
You might want to mention that treaty to him then.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a clean and justified shot. I’d love to have been the pilot. It’d be a great story over beer. Just much of the nattering from Congress about how compromised the US was because of the overflight is pretty much nonsense because the US military installations have been hardened over the years during the Open Skies Treaty, which China was not a signatory.
When we exited (because of Russia noncompliance) the general consensus was our satellites were able to collect better Intel than the OC 135 aircraft we were using anyway.
There’s a reason they call it an air defense identification zone….
ADSB is not really an option here, it needs a somewhat powerful transmitter, something in the 75-500W range (impulse output, average power is lower). That needs quite a bit of heavy RF hardware and batteries to operate. Some of the lightweight ham radio balloons have a payload weight well below 100g, consisting of just some electronics, solar panels and the antenna. Many of these balloons totally avoid batteries since (at least rechargeable) batteries don’t work too well at the low temperatures up there, without a battery you can still transmit whenever there is enough solar power. Adding ADSB would add a lot of weight and in the end make some of these projects totally infeasible (especially the long-duration flights staying in the air for weeks, you can’t really add enough primary batteries to operate ADSB for that long).
Adding some kind of (passive) radar reflector may be an option, that is possible without much extra weight and doesn’t need a (reliable) power supply to operate.
For some a requirement.
They’ll probably make ADSB mandatory in actual air craft long before requiring it in balloons
If you can’t take something that small in the air how do you handle a large bird???
This incident withbaloons is not new in 1942 battle of Los Angeles a ball on was seen over the city they fired ani aircraft shells at it and there were explosions this was probably a japanese ball on that dropped bombs the governmentvdsid it was a weather balloon thec1947 roswell object was described as a weather ball on by us govrtnment this was most likely a balloon with capsule with monitors for russian atomic bomb tests or was it a russian spy balloon
That sounds like the ultimate in geek cred, to have your pico balloon shot down by the USAF.
Always fun when a project gets you a visit from the federales.
Yep, I’d die a happy hacker if that happened to me. I was toying with the idea of testing my High Power LoRa Device: https://hackaday.io/project/187574-low-quiescent-current-high-power-1w-lora-device from a balloon but was worried about the danger to aircraft. I’ll defo try and dangle it from my drone, but 120 metres is not particularly exciting.
Doesn’t the USAF monitor 144.390 for APRS? Do they know a CW ID?
I was looking at some of the nice kits on qrp-labs.com a few months ago and ran across their trackers. I knew the balloons were a thing, but hadn’t realized all the improvements.
Blew my mind that they had some test flights that went around the world seven times. And one flight eventually came back to within 10 miles of the guy that launched it.
Was thinking I might like to try it in the future. Now I’m a little leery, is USAF going to be looking for reimbursement? $400k per Sidewinder….
Oh, their tracker is pretty neat, does APRS on 2m and WISPR on HF.
I’m really surprised that the Lame Stream Media did not pick up on this story. Then again, not…
I guess Fox News 6 out of Milwaukee saw my post:
“Military recovers Chinese balloon debris | FOX6 News Milwaukee”
Everything is a [continental] Chinese spying device – except things that any government ran by people with a brain would use to spy on other nations, because the US military can’t make a show of blowing up satellites or suspicious USB sticks.
The CCP just need to get into the NSA and make a copy of the petabytes of data they’ve gathered and they’d know everything they’d ever need for… whatever the US media thinks they want to do.
At least one could genuinely believe the Iraq had WMD’s, given the lack of any evidence to the contrary. This “spy balloon” talk makes me think it was something thought up by an old fart who still uses a pager and genuinely believes we’re still in the XXth century. Probably a fan of James Bond movies too.
Doesn’t really make sense to compare Iraq and China. If you don’t think that country is capable and WILL pursue interests that run counter to the US… I don’t really know what to tell you. And I’m sure they are trying to infiltrate NSA and any other US intelligence agency they can. Would be foolish for them not to. Did you think that everything that went on in the cold war just went away one day for no reason?
Idk about balloons though
The military’s entire framing of the 3 most recent shoot-downs is entirely backwards. Consider how the K9YO incident, for example, ought to be framed:
On Feb. 11, the NIBBB pico balloon K9YO-15 heroically sacrificed itself to destroy an errantly-launched Sidewinder missile before it could lock-on to and potentially destroy any manned aircraft in the balloon’s patrol area. The downed missile was the first such threat the pico balloon had encountered in its 100,000+ miles and 4+ months on patrol.
For this take-down, NIBBB is entitled to display a sidewinder trophy silhouette on their launch facility. Four more, and they will rightly be able to claim the title “Ace”.
Surely the NIBBB would be considering suing for compensation?
Nah, costs way too much. The balloon was something like $13, and the payload somewhere under $200. Where would they find a lawyer to even write a demand letter for less than that? And it was nearing the end of it’s 7th circumnavigation, so was likely very near end-of-life so almost fully depreciated.
But the Air Force really ought to send them a bug-bounty check for pointing out the specific issue (see the last half of https://hackaday.com/2023/02/18/the-usaf-almost-declares-war-on-illinois-radio-amateurs/#comment-6600975) while simultaneously defending the airspace over Yukon from an errant missile.
One can only hope the AF learns something useful from this idiocy, thereby preventing future equally useless but expensive actions.
I didn’t think there would be any chance of them suing whatsoever until I read the words “Where would they find a lawyer ”
Surely there is a lawyer that would do it just for the fame.
I wonder if they have been contacted by any yet.
Anyone find the missing sidewinder?
At is all harmless until someone gets hurt, then why didn’t anyone do anything about it. Maybe they should develope a less expensive way to down something like this, if it needs that. On today’s world I personally don’t want stuff floating around above me somewhere unless it needs to be there or is approved to be there with the proper authorities in charge of such things. Last bit is fir wiggle room for floaty stuffs.
Oh, get a grip!
This flight WAS approved by the proper authorities — the FAA (who defined the mechanical & flight constraints) and the FCC (who defined the communication constraints) — who published the regulations under which flights like this are allowed to operate. And the K9YO-15 flight apparently complied with ALL relevant regulations.
The balloon and its payload TOGETHER weighed about as much as a large hummingbird, and presented no threat whatever to any reasonably designed aircraft. Any manned aircraft that would be significantly damaged by collision with a hummingbird, or with a ballon & payload of similar weight, doesn’t belong in the air under any circumstance.
The FAA did their job by defining regulations that address REAL risks — rules for both balloon operators, and rules for aircraft designers, manufacturers, and operators — when balloons share airspace with other aircraft. If you believe there are significant risks they haven’t addressed, your beef is with the FAA, not with operators of pico balloons in compliance with FAA regulations.
Now the military needs needs to step up and do their job:
1. Recognize that small balloons ARE ALLOWED to share the airspace — even internationally — with other aircraft.
2. Pay attention to the published position tracking data on known balloon flights, so they don’t waste expensive flight hours investigating small contacts that are identifiable through other means.
3. Develop rules & methods to prevent expending both expensive missiles on small targets that present no realistic threat to anyone.
NIBBB, the FAA, and the FCC were all in the right here. The military screwed up. Fortunately their screw-up cost only dollars, not lives. And I would contend that NIBBB and the operators of the other balloons downed recently have in fact done us a favor by pointing out at least a couple ways in which the military has been deficient.
Still don’t want floaty stuff over me in Today’s world, especially with this lack of communication going on. Doesn’t really inspire confidence in the system at large. The incident exposed an open door for better or worse.
I find it odd that so many HaD readers seem unaware that the reason why Mylar is used as material for some balloons is that helium passes very easily through many materials and so a rubbery balloon won’t stay afloat very long when filled with helium.
Of course you can also use that issue on purpose to make sure a balloon won’t stay up long.
As for the remarks that the conclusion about the ID of this balloon is ‘preliminary’ I think that the announcement that the pentagon has ended the search for the debris and seems to want to ‘move on’ is also an indicator.
Since when is a “small car” equivalent to a 36 inch balloon? That’s smaller than a clown car!
Two different balloons. The actual spy balloon was a lot bigger than this one.
Invented a new solid state modular ion thruster a while back, but ran into issues on a patent search.
Which leads me to believe that someone has a working system already.
Yet there’s nothing in the literature about it, and the only remotely similar version is the
air thruster recently mentioned as being tested by the ESA.
This particular design uses off the shelf materials, and a few other items but all within the
realms of possibility for an NGO or small amateur radio group.
Also isn’t affected by altitude significantly and can be fitted to a He balloon with a gas
supply to replenish any losses from leakage.
Could be useful for say an antenna pointer, or some other device.
Can we talk about the 2500 lb electric sports car launched into solar orbit by Elon Musk and SpaceX; and how that will be a hazard to future space and Mars missions?
Everybody thought THAT was totally cool.
Are you intentionally trolling, or have you just never played KSP?
You find the idea of trolls wasting huge amounts of tax dollars, possibly causing an international incident, or committing terrorism to be “amusing”?
What other sorts of negligent public safety disasters amuse you?
Helium makes people sound funny. Let’s replace a bunch of patients Oxygen with it.
How about we set off some fireworks during a protest rally to lighten the mood?
What other funny things can we do that might cause a bunch of deaths?
It’s just pranks bro.
I’ve actually thought a lot about this and believe you need to have a strong appreciation of what is real and what is fantasy to engage in this kind of humor. There’s nothing wrong with dark thoughts as long as you know they are not, and should not, be connected to reality. There are boundaries between the vast majority of ideas and actual action that should not be crossed.
Didn’t this balloon call home after be shootdown?
I am prior military united states Air force to be exact and the military did nothing wrong in my opinion the military was showing that they are always ready for action regardless of what it might be and that includes a balloon they united states military showed us when they did this they are always at the ready and I’m proud to have served my country they had no idea what it was and they took out the target that shows the people in the USA doesn’t matter the size of the target that they will find it and will take it out if necessary I also look at it in this projective this could have been another start of Pearl Harbor so people need to stop criticizing the United States government for doing their duty to their country we all took an oath to Serve and Protect regardless of the cost
Picoballoons, and any balloon under 4 lbs, are unregulated, and thus fly legally over the US without ADSB/reflectors/NOTAMs/etc. (If you go over 4 lbs, it’s not that much additional hassle to comply, BTW.)
That Chinese balloon is a whole different animal, however, with thousands of pounds of payload. You need to get permission to enter a country’s airspace with something like that, or else you get an international incident. Which makes the “research balloon” cover story unlikely, IMO.
Just reading about another large Balloon out in the pacific near Hawaii. I’ve been wondering though, doesn’t the military have aircraft mounted lasers now? Wouldn’t that be a better option than a missile?
Come on now. I understand why one wouldn’t want a technical forum to be overrun with politics but come on. This was a hacker project which was destroyed by politics. Hacker projects will continue to be destroyed by politics until hackers get political.
Right wing media got their zombie fans all up in an uproar over the actual spy balloon. Which should have been a non-issue.
Spy balloons in the sky aren’t even unusual and honestly foreign spy balloons do serve a purpose to the US and to any nuclear power. What do you think all those missiles are for? Are they meant to actually be launched? Hell no. If that happens we all die. They are there as a deterrence and failing that they are located where they are to distract the enemy from our population centers. Go ahead, Google the term “Nuclear Sponge”.
We WANT foreign powers to spy on the plains states where we have our missile silos. That’s how MAD works!
Secret strategic nukes are of zero value. People are missing the point here.
So anyway, the right wing zombies got all upset that the first balloon wasn’t instantly shot down. Because their media masters told them to. So now for political reasons the politicians have to command the military to shoot down every little thing so the right wingers don’t use it against them in the next election.
And once again it’s the hobbyists that loose.
Because right wingers don’t participate in brainy hobbies like launching amateur radio balloons. They only drink beer and get fat watching football until Fox gives them marching orders to go ruin something good.
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