fallen in a remote area, a mobile internet network fuel suspicion

On the night of August 24-25, a mechanical object, which many took as a satellite, was found near the town of Buta in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo. Residents passed on pictures of the mysterious object. In reality, it is part of a Loon Balloon, a device that provides an internet network in rural areas around the world.The object was found in a field near the road between Kisangani and Buta, in the province of Haut Uele in the north of the country. Photos of the object, night and day, as well as a video, circulated on social networks and in the local press.
This video was taken in Bulumakete, near Buta, according to local mediabetween 1 and 2 on 25 August. We hear people discussing in Lingala, a Batonese language spoken in Central Africa: “There is a piece of paper in the bag with instructions in English,” said one of them.

The incident has aroused very interested residents and Internet users who exchange theories about its nature and the cause of its fall in Buta. Some claim that the ship is an “American satellite” that spies on the Congolese army in favor of Rwanda.

Others claim rather that it is a Russian satellite, in orbit since the late 1990s and that would have crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, like this Internet user who even provides details about the said “satellite”:

The “satellite” is actually the electronic part of Loon balloon, a device launched by Company X, a research arm for Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The device is designed to travel for miles and provide wireless internet in areas of the world that do not have access to it. What is shown in the transmitted images are the components called payload (“payload” in French) and the bus (“communication system” in French).

Screenshots of the site Loon.

The contact person for the observer’s editorial staff, a spokesman for Loon, Scott Coriell, clarified that the balloon landed well and did not fall by mistake in Bulumakete. The company chooses to land their units to study the information they have collected during their travels and check if it works correctly.

Loon performed a controlled landing of one of our stratospheric balloons in this region. This landing was carried out in a safe and secure manner after coordination with the local air traffic control officers. It has been specifically approved by the Congolese Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC). In accordance with Loon’s landing procedures, a parachute was deployed and the balloon was lowered at a relatively low speed in an isolated area. At no time does this pose a risk to the local population.

Loon spokesman also confirms the path traveled by the device, created by Internet users from the number of devices visible in the images (116):

This balloon was used in service in Kenya. It began its journey from the launch site in Puerto Rico and remained there for 122 days. Loon does not provide internet in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because our balloons operate around the world, we often land in countries outside of those where we currently provide services. We requested the landing permit for this aircraft on 24 August, received it and we coordinated the landing by telephone with Civil Aviation in Kinshasa.

This Internet user interested in stratospheric balloons followed the path of the balloon found near Buta, with the serial number “HBAL166”. He has traveled almost 130 km, mainly across the southern African continent.

According to Scott Corell, a Loon recovery team is already in place to retrieve the balloon and its two-part components. The first connects users to the Internet thanks to its LTE antenna and includes surface sensors, the second secures the balloon. Everything works thanks to solar energy collectors. Loon, the company specifies, does not provide the Internet network itself, but captures existing networks from cell towers in a certain area and distributes them to other areas with land access problems. . The stratospheric balloon itself, made of polyethylene, a synthetic material, which empties on landing.