Fri, 31 Mar 2023

US senators to propose balloon tracking legislation

Robert Besser
19 Mar 2023, 05:08 GMT+10

WASHINGTON D.C.: US Senators Mark Kelly, a Democrat, and Ted Budd, a Republican, will introduce legislation this week to help the US military differentiate between potential threats by mandating tracking systems that detect high-altitude weather and research balloons.

After US fighter jets shot down a Chinese balloon and three other objects last month, the two senators told Reuters they will introduce legislation to help identify balloons operating in US airspace.

Under the legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration must issue regulations within two years mandating equipping high-altitude balloons operating at 10,000 feet above sea level or higher with tracking systems to transmit altitude, identity and location.

A former US Navy pilot and NASA astronaut, Kelly said, "At a time when our adversaries are using hostile surveillance tactics, there is no reason why our country should have to wonder whether an object in our airspace is a threat, weather balloon, or science project."

In a statement, Budd, who is a pilot, said, "The recent shoot down of a Chinese spy balloon that traversed the skies over our country for more than a week highlights the immediate need for the FAA to re-evaluate how we track objects flying over American airspace."

The FAA is also required by the legislation to work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to draft equivalent international standards for high-altitude balloons, and must create a committee to propose recommendations to update existing regulations.

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