It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a crashing plane, quick, call for help! That was apparently the narrative in New Zealand on Friday as one of Google’s Project Loon hot air balloons went down in the sea near the lower South Island.
Emergency officials were contacted early Friday morning by someone thinking they’d just witnessed a plane crash. A rescue helicopter was dispatched to the area but was ultimately called off when it was discovered that a plane wasn’t involved.
It’s a reasonable concern in the wake of the presumed ocean crash of Malaysia Airlines MH370 but fortunately in this instance, no lives were at jeopardy.
The search giant has been conducting tests of its Wi-Fi equipped balloons in New Zealand since last June. Google confirmed the incident with The Wall Street Journal, pointing out that it is difficult to keep balloons in one place due to shifting winds. The Project Loon team coordinated with local traffic control authorities and has a dedicated team in place responsible for recovering balloons once they land.
This isn’t the first incident involving one of Google’s balloons to make headlines. Earlier this month, a balloon managed to strike some power lines in a Washington town during an early morning controlled landing. The impact caused a small amount of damage and knocked out electricity to some residents for around five hours.