Hobbyist Balloon Exits U.S. Airspace, Officials Confirm

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has confirmed that a small, high-altitude hobbyist balloon, which had been under surveillance as it passed through the Western U.S., has now exited American airspace.

Initially detected by NORAD, the balloon’s journey sparked enough concern for military aircraft to be dispatched for closer inspection.

Balloon Posed No Threat

Despite the concerns, NORAD’s investigation revealed the balloon, floating at altitudes between 43,000 and 45,000 feet, was not maneuverable and posed no threat to national security.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also assessed that the balloon presented no danger to flight safety.

Details provided by U.S. officials described the balloon as being made of Mylar, with a small cube-shaped box attached, further identifying it as a hobbyist project rather than a covert surveillance device.

Recent Tensions Over Airspace Incursions

This incident occurs in the context of heightened sensitivity to aerial objects following last year’s event, where a Chinese balloon equipped for espionage flew over the continental U.S., escalating U.S.-China tensions.

That balloon, claimed by China to be a weather data collector gone off-course, was eventually shot down by the U.S. military, sparking a significant diplomatic and political fallout.

Military and Political Ramifications

The presence of the Chinese balloon last year led to a series of unidentified objects being shot down over U.S. and Canadian airspace, though none were linked to espionage activities.

This series of events underscored the military’s vigilance concerning airspace security and the political challenges of responding to such incidents.

Biden faced scrutiny over the handling of the Chinese balloon, which also influenced U.S. diplomatic strategies with China, including the postponement and later realization of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing.

With information from CBS News

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