CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. (WREG) — If you live in Crittenden County, Arkansas, you may have seen something unusual in the sky Wednesday morning.
Law enforcement was just as perplexed when they found the strange object landed in a field.
“We got a call that there was a balloon down in a field. It was an unmanned balloon with some equipment on it,” said Crittenden County Deputy Chief Todd Grooms.
A giant balloon — the size of a house — didn’t just fly over Crittenden County but it crashed in an open field.
“It was unusual. We thought it could be a weather balloon but the weather service said it did not belong to them. They kind of indicated that it wasn’t the kind of balloon that would carry that kind of equipment,” Grooms said.
WREG did some investigating and discovered the balloon belonged to a company out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota called Aerostar, which specializes in stratospheric technology.
This isn’t the exact balloon we saw Wednesday, but Aerostar said it’s the same kind, called the Thunderbird.
They said the balloon found in the field was launched back in July as part of a research and development project that tracks and measures methane gas in the air.
“ExxonMobil, together with Scepter, launched an Aerostar directed stratospheric balloon in the Permian Basin to test advanced imaging technology and proprietary data processing platforms to detect methane emissions across a large operating area. Because of atmospheric conditions, the balloon traveled to Arkansas where it safely completed its mission,” Aerostar said in a statement.
While this technology is fascinating, Chief Grooms said the incident could have been dangerous.
“It has some very large equipment on it and had it hit a car or somebody going down a highway, yeah it could have been a potential problem,” Grooms said.
In an email, Aerostar told WREG their flight operation crew was tracking the descent and has since retrieved the balloon. We asked what could cause one of these balloons to crash, but haven’t yet received a response.