Surveillance Balloon May Be Guided By Artificial Intelligence

Surveillance Balloon May Be Guided By Artificial Intelligence

William Kim: The balloon looks to have a type of guidance system that the United States hasn’t yet used onboard aircraft, such as advanced artificial intelligence-guided steering. Image | Donald Standeford.

By Donald Standeford, SJ Founder/Publisher
February 04, 2023 01:15 am UTC
Modified: 2023-02-04 01:15 pm
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WASHINGTON DC: A specialist in surveillance balloons says that balloons are difficult to shoot down and that the one over the United States flying over U.S. military sites looks to have been equipped with an advanced AI guidance system.

William Kim, a specialist in surveillance balloons at the Marathon Initiative in Washington DC, said that the balloon looked like a normal weather balloon, except that it had a large and visible “payload”.

What May Be Included In The Payload
The payload is the onboard equipment, including the solar panels used to power the systems, an electronic guidance system, and surveillance equipment for information collection.

Kim said that the balloon looks to have a type of guidance system that the United States hasn’t yet used onboard aircraft, such as advanced artificial intelligence-guided steering.

He said that with AI, a balloon would be able to read the changes in the air and adjust altitude automatically, guiding it where to go, whereas before “you either had to have a tether … or you just send it up and it just goes wherever the wind takes it”.

“What’s happened very recently with advances in AI is that you can have a balloon that… doesn’t need its own motion system. Merely by adjusting the altitude, it can control its direction,” Kim said.

He also said this could include receiving communications from a base of operations where it originated from.

“if the point of it is to monitor (intercontinental ballistic missile) silos, which is one of the theories … you wouldn’t necessarily need to tell it to adjust its location,” he stated.

Advantages Of A Balloon Over Satellites
Kim said that balloons have a few advances over satellites. Satellites are more vulnerable and easier to track, while radar has a difficult time tracking balloons.

“These are materials that don’t reflect, they’re not metal. So even though these balloons expand to quite large, detecting… the balloon itself is going to be a problem,” he said.

He also said that if the payload is small enough, the balloon can be easily missed, and added that balloons are stationary for longer periods of time, as opposed to satellites that are always orbiting which makes it easier for them to surveil their target and collect data without interruption.

Being much closer to the ground than a satellite, a balloon would be able to capture higher-resolution photos or video of its target.

“These things can stay overhead, they can stay over one spot months at a time, compared to the low-Earth-orbit satellites,” he said.

He said that there is a “real possibility” that the balloon’s purpose may have been to collect data from outside of U.S. airspace, or at a higher altitude and malfunctioned.

“These balloons don’t always work perfectly,” he stated, adding that usually balloons fly at an altitude of around 65,000 to 100,000 feet, but this balloon is flying at around 46,000 feet.

“That’s definitely a little low. … If you wanted it to be harder to spot if you want it to be harder to shoot down, then it would make sense to operate at higher altitudes.”

Multiple Balloons, Not Just One Seems To Deflate “Accidental” Theory
Chief Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder had stated, “We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon”.

Blake Herzinger of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. was not so optimistic regarding the balloon’s intentions, directing attention to the fact that there was not one, but multiple balloons spotted.

Herzinger said of the theory that the balloon may have accidentally entered U.S. airspace unintentionally, “two balloons being coincidentally off course in two different places certainly seems to deflate that theory”.

Kim Addresses The Possibility Of Shooting The Balloon Down
Regarding plans to shoot the balloon down, Kim said, “These balloons use helium… It’s not the Hindenburg, you can’t just shoot it and then and then it goes up in flames”.

“If you do punch holes in it, it’s just kind of going to leak out very slowly.”

In 1998 the Canadian Air Force attempted to shoot down a rogue weather balloon. They deployed F-18 fighter jets to take it down but found after firing a thousand rounds at the balloon that shooting it down is much more difficult than it would seem.

“They fired a thousand 20-millimeter cannon rounds into it. And it still took six days before it finally came down. These are not things that explode or pop when you shoot at them,” Kim said.

He also said that he wasn’t sure if surface-to-air missiles would work either, due to the fact that they are designed to hit fast-moving targets, such as missiles and aircraft. Balloons move at much slower speeds than missiles and aircraft.

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