A pair of weird, white “UFOs” seen floating over Kansas City, Missouri might be part of a secretive DARPA project testing the long-distance capabilities of lighter-than-air vehicles.
Skywatchers’ interest was piqued on Thursday when even the National Weather Service seemed stumped over the origin of the orbs, admitting in a tweet that they “honestly have no explanation for the floating objects over Kansas City.”
While the Defense Department didn’t come right out and admit their top-secret Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) toys were the UFOs in question, they confirmed to Gizmodo that three Adaptable Lighter Than Air (ALTA) balloons bearing a stunning resemblance to the mystery orbs had recently been released from Cumberland, Maryland. The agency even tweeted about it.
While the real purpose of the ALTA program is likely to remain classified, DARPA only says it should “develop and demonstrate a high altitude lighter-than-air vehicle capable of wind-borne navigation over extended ranges.” Buffeted by wind currents and capable of adjusting its altitude to take advantage of those currents, the ALTA balloons seem to have fulfilled that objective, drifting halfway across the country in the space of two days.
Aside from the old standby explanation – “aliens” – other hypotheses explaining the white spheres included Google’s Project Loon, an ever-growing network of WiFi-equipped helium balloons designed to expand broadband access on the ground while expanding Google’s information-collection capabilities in the sky. At least one dedicated Google fan appeared to prove that two of the company’s balloons were in the right place at the right time for them to be the weird white orbs in question, although a Loon engineer claimed the company didn’t have any balloons currently operating in the Kansas City area.