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Sen. Budd introduces bipartisan bill to improve tracking of high-altitude balloons

The Seeing Objects at Altitude Regularly (SOAR) Act comes after U.S. fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic coast.

WASHINGTON — After four unknown objects were found floating over North American airspace earlier in 2023, two U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at better tracking high-altitude balloons.

Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) announced the introduction of the Seeing Objects at Altitude Regularly Act, or SOAR Act. If the bill were to become law, it would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue new regulations for high-altitude balloons operating 10,000 feet above sea level. Specifically, the bill would require the balloons to be equipped with a tracking system transmitting their altitude, identity, and location.

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Additionally, the bill would require the FAA to work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop similar standards for other balloons launched around the world.

“The recent shootdown 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," said Budd in a statement. "Examining more efficient means for tracking the identity and location of aircraft is not only critical to maintaining safety in our skies, but it’s also a matter of national security. I am pleased to join Senator Kelly in this important effort.”

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Sen. Kelly concurred with his own statement, saying “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. Our common-sense legislation will give our military the tools needed to identify threats more quickly and efficiently while providing more certainty to good-faith operators of high-altitude balloons. I welcome Senator Budd’s partnership on this safety and national security issue.” 

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