A Google Loon Mistaken for a Plane Crash Prompted a Helicopter Rescue in New Zealand

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 20 2014 12:12 PM

A Google Loon Mistaken for a Plane Crash Prompted a Helicopter Rescue in New Zealand

google_loon
A Google Loon balloon on a tranquil day.

Image from Google Loon.

Google’s Loon project is all about good vibes—inclusiveness, world connectivity, access to information, etc. But the balloons themselves, which look sort of like airborne jellyfish, are a little out of place in the skies. And they're causing some freak-outs.

Last week, for example, a bystander in New Zealand mistook a Loon flying over New Zealand's South Island for a plane crash and called emergency services. According to the Wall Street Journal, the response included a rescue helicopter being sent out to survey the scene.

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Google Loon balloons fly at double the altitude of commercial aircraft, and Google has been testing them around New Zealand, where they coordinate with air traffic control authorities. The rescue helicopter located the Loon, which had landed in the ocean, and identified it as a balloon, not a wrecked plane.

At least no power lines were hurt this time.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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