If ‘High-Altitude Objects’ Are Not Balloons Or Aircraft, What The Heck Are They?

The U.S. has now shot down three intruders over Canada and Alaska. These ‘high altitude objects,’ were very much smaller than the balloon downed off South Carolina earlier this month. One was described as being the size of a small car, but according to the BBC there was no indication how it was able to fly.

“I’m not going to categorize them as balloons. We’re calling them objects for a reason,” US Northern Command Commander General Glen VanHerck told a media briefing.

Other sources only added to the mystery.

“We will not definitively characterize them until we can recover the debris,” a White House National Security spokesperson told the BBC.

Coming immediately after an intrusion by positively identified as a Chinese espionage balloon, it is hard to assume that the new objects, which were also slow, high-altitude objects also coming from the same direction, were not simply more of the same. They might be different designs, some might even be innocent weather balloons, but it seems beyond the bounds of coincidence for them not to be further light-than-air craft.

But the Pentagon is strongly resisting this interpretation, and, even more bizarrely, refuses to call them aircraft but insists on objects … as in unidentified flying objects.

Anything, even a brick, can be made to fly on a ballistic trajectory, and projectiles from cannonballs to ballistic missiles to satellites remain aloft from their initial impetus. Flying continuously inside the Earth’s atmosphere requires lift though: either the buoyancy of a lighter-than-air craft such as a balloon, airship or aerostat provided by hot air or low-density gas, or lift from airflow generated by a heavier than air craft. For aircraft this comes from the flow of air under the wings, for helicopters and VTOL jets the thrust comes from rotors directing a blast of air downwards.

And that is it. Loosely speaking, everything is either a balloon or an aircraft. The most likely explanation here appears to be that the ‘objects’ are balloons but, for whatever reason, have been difficult to positively identify as such. Describing something as the size of a small car and saying that it has no visible means of staying in the air implies that it lacks the wings of an airplane or the rotors of a helicopter.

The military have experimented with ‘flying saucers’ themselves, such as the Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar of the 1950’s, though these have simply been craft with jet engines and unusual aerodynamics getting lift from the shape of the wingless body. These designs have never been able to compete with conventional aircraft layouts.

Moving outside those bounds pushes us very much into the realm of weird science and propulsion systems beyond anything yet seen. Hence journalists asking the Air Force, will all apparent seriousness, whether these might be alien craft.

However, the U.S. military in particular has also shown an interest in exotic propulsion concepts, even funding research into antigravity technology, such as Eugene Podkletnov’s arrangement of spinning superconductors in thee 1990swhich he believed could screen out gravity. Such projects have, as far as we know, failed to produce positive results. But one exotic technology has consistently produced anomalous and (to most physicists) inexplicable results, seemingly able to create thrust out of nothing.

In 2002 British inventor Roger Shawyer confined microwaves in a truncated cone and claimed to get more pressure on one end than the other, producing a net thrust. He calls this arrangement the EmDrive.

The thrust produced by the EmDrive is tiny, fractions of an ounce, but comparable to systems used for manoeuvring satellites and space probes. According to Shawyer, an advanced, superconducting version could propel wingless air vehicles into space and back, or allow them to hover at high altitude.

Shawyer’s claims are not accepted by the scientific community at large, but many others, including NASA’s Eagleworks, appear to have replicated his results. Reports that the EmDrive had been ‘disproved’ by a team at Dresden in 2018 were not accurate: the Dresden team simply eliminated one potential source of error.

The technology was sufficiently promising for DARPA to award a contract to Mike McCulloch, at the University of Plymouth to produce w working drive based on his theory of Quantized Inertia, or QI. While this theory is disputed – it lies out on the edges of known physics – it gives testable predictions and should enable the engineering of efficient drives producing thrust which is not just measurable but usable. McCulloch says that the project, having successfully passed previous milestones, is continuing to give good results.

Meanwhile China has also been pursuing the same technology. While it was largely ignored in the West, a Chinese team led by Prof Juan Yang at Xi’an Northwestern Polytechnic built their own version and reported anomalous thrust. By 2016 the China Academy of Space Technology announced the technology had been validated, and they were testing it in orbit. After that things went very quiet with no further papers published, but scattered reports have suggested that work continues.

So how can we tell if the mystery objects are powered by a Chinese version of the EmDrive? Such a drive might produce specific types of electromagnetic emission.

“There may be a small RF [radiofrequency] leakage at the resonant frequency of the EmDrive cavity,” Shawyer told Forbes. “The vehicle will appear cold to any IR targeting sensor, due to the liquid hydrogen tanks, which will form a large part of the volume of the vehicle.”

Conceivably this could be connected to a report from one pilot that the object interfered with his aircraft’s sensors. McCulloch concurs that this might be a signature of the drive and the only detectable sign it was working.

“There could be electromagnetic disturbances,” McCulloch told Forbes. “There would be no apparent exhaust, heat or means of support, no fuel tank, just a battery or solar panels.”

The military are now scrambling to recover debris from the crash sites, and these should fairly quickly confirm whether the objects were balloons, conventional aircraft or something else. If an EmDrive was involved, then certain components not found in any other type of air vehicles will turn up in the wreckage

“The cavity and microwave amplifiers would be a good giveaway,” says Shawyer.

“Over-engineered, conducting structures that appear to have no function,” says McCulloch.

Of course, in the event that this type of unorthodox technology is involved, it would raise more questions. It makes little sense for China to use world-changing, top-secret technology for a mission which could just as easily be carried by other means, and where there is a good chance it will be captured by a hostile power, and that makes even those working on this technology doubtful.

“Why would they not just use a balloon?” asks McCulloch. “Why would the Chinese reveal cutting edge tech this way?

It seems highly unlikely that the high-altitude objects were powered by exotic science, but until the Air Force can give us any better information, and while they insist that they were not balloons, this is as close as we can get to an answer.

#HighAltitude #Objects #Balloons #Aircraft #Heck

Leave a Comment