Earlier this week, a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon was spotted drifting across the continental US. China acknowledged Friday that the floating orb belonged to Beijing, but referred to it as a civilian device used for scientific research. The balloon is the size of two to three school buses and is covered in surveillance equipment, which is the size of multiple buses. The US Defense Department is coordinating with NASA to determine the debris field if the balloon were to be shot down. China has previously said the balloon was drifting due to force majeure and that it has “checked and provided feedback” to the US. As the balloon’s presence affects US airspace, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomatic trip to China has been postponed. The balloon’s future path is still unknown, as it is subject to the jet stream.
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Spy balloons are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used for surveillance and reconnaissance. They are typically equipped with sensors and cameras to gather data and images from the ground. These images can then be used to identify targets and track movement.
And they usually fly at a low altitude, usually below 1000 feet. Sometimes a Special equipment attached to such balloons may be powered by radar or solar energy and make them fly at 24,000 metres or 37,000 metres. And, according to reports this height is above commercial air traffic as airlines never fly higher than 12,000 metres.
This allows the balloon to stay out of sight and gather data without being detected. The balloons are equipped with navigation systems that allow them to travel along a predetermined route. They are powered by a helium or hydrogen gas-filled balloon.
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The balloon can also be equipped with radar, infrared sensors, and sonar to detect any activity on the ground. The balloon can also be outfitted with night-vision cameras and other sensors to monitor activity at night. The balloon can also be outfitted with a variety of sensors to detect objects or vehicles on the ground.
The balloon can be controlled remotely, usually through a radio-controlled aircraft or a computer system. The data collected is then sent to a mission control center where it can be analyzed and used for tactical decisions.
Spy balloons are a powerful tool for surveillance and reconnaissance, and can be used to gather valuable intelligence from the ground. They are also relatively inexpensive, making them a cost-effective option for many agencies or organizations.