Amateur astronomer Allen Epling captured photos and video of a strange cigar-shaped UFO in the sky above Pike County, Kentucky in October 2012. And witnesses in multiple states reportedly saw the same, or a similar, aerial object. The sighting garnered widespread media attention. Weeks later, local media reported that the UFO was simply a toy solar balloon.
Many questioned the assertion that this UFO was a mere solar balloon, and people were left wondering about the object’s true identity. But apparently Google’s Rich DeVaul knows what it was. Wired reports, “Sitting in a conference room in Mountain View, California, he beams proudly as he runs a YouTube clip of one of the newscasts. The mysterious craft was his doing. Or, at least, the work of his Google team. The people in Pike County were witnessing a test of Project Loon, a breathtakingly ambitious plan to bring the Internet to a huge swath of as-yet-unconnected humanity—via thousands of solar-powered, high-pressure balloons floating some 60,000 feet above Earth.”
Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.
Although Project Loon was just unveiled on June 15, 2013 at a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, the project has reportedly been in development for two years. So it is conceivable that what Allen Epling saw over Kentucky in 2012 was a Project Loon balloon. Google asserts that the Kentucky UFO remained aloft for eleven days, then wound up in Canada.
Epling himself acknowledged that the aerial object he observed could have been a balloon. But he also described the UFO as being stationary, hovering for two hours in the sky. Whether Project Loon balloons have the ability to hover in the same location for hours is unclear. Google does explain, however, that “Unlike weather balloons, Loon balloons are superpressure, which enable them to stay aloft for 100+ days at a time. This is far longer than typical weather balloons, which last for a matter of hours. Loon balloons are also unique in that they are steerable and entirely solar powered.”