Boy floats away in homemade UFO (updated)
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This is terrifying

A 6-year-old boy is floating over northeastern Colorado in a homebuilt lighter-than-air craft and authorities are racing to try and rescue him. The homemade flying saucer , covered in foil and filled with helium, lifted the boy into the air near Fort Collins Thursday morning after the balloon became untethered at the family home. Fort Collins police and other authorities have been alerted and Airtracker 7 has launched in an effort to locate the boy. We’re told the boy was near Milliken around noon and was heading southeast at about 7,000 feet, which would be about 2,000 feet above ground level. Skies in the area are partly cloudy and southwest wind speeds are 15 to 20 miles per hour. “It is believed the device could rise to 10,000 feet,” said Eloise Campanella, Larimer County Sheriff’s Officer spokeswoman. Deputies from Larimer and Weld counties are tracking the balloon as it drifts.

….and it’s over. The kid was hiding in the attic.

72 thoughts on “Boy floats away in homemade UFO (updated)

    1. The balloon was estimated at 20 ft diameter, 6 ft high.
      Maybe on the order of 1100 cubic feet, could lift ~70 pounds.

  1. You say it’s terrifying, but think of it this way: If this boy is able to create this and sucessfully launch it at 6 years old, imagine what he can do 10 years from now when he’s 16!!

    Future astronaut perhaps?

  2. One of the first tests for space flight was a guy in a balloon that went considerably higher then this guy is going to. Then he jumped out and free fell from the stratosphere. Of course he had a parachute but still I find my self oddly jealous of both of them , that is assuming the kid survives, its going to get chilly at 10k feet. As insane as this sounds I want to do it. Its probably my best chance to get to see space and if Im gonna sky dive it might as well be a 15 minute free fall.

    Hope to see an update that the child was recovered with nothing more then an absolutely amazing story to tell at school the next day.

    1. If he hasn’t frozen to death.

      Terrible parenting. I guess the parents don’t consider safety or monitoring your child.

  3. Doesnt look like the kid was in it , landed safely with compartment intact no child present. Lets hope hes hiding from his dad for unhooking it.

  4. Heard on one of the local news-casts: “this is the danger when people try these things best left to the professionals”. to my mind *this* is the bad news of this event for this Maker venue. talking-heads: amateur inventors == bad

    1. I couldn’t agree more… the last thing the maker movement needs is the perception that the community as as whole is not responsible. Bad parenting? absolutely.. But the idea that making things should be left to the professionals is a reaction based on fear. We’ll need some positive press after this.

      1. @jobrodesign – this appears to be a case of unsupervised children, not anything to do with “makers” – it could be a pool, a car, a chainsaw, anything. if kids aren’t watched, things can happen.

  5. Here’s a quick calculation based on the sketchy information available (the CNN photo of the balloon on the ground, mainly):

    Balloon radius: about 6 feet.
    Balloon height: about 6 feet.

    If it were a perfect cylinder, the volume would be:

    pi*6^2*6 = pi * 36 * 6 = 678.5 cubic feet.

    Helium has a lifting capacity of 28.2g/cf. So 678.5 * 28.2 = 19,136g = 42 pounds.

    I think that’s a best-case lift figure for this craft, given that I calculated the volume as a cylinder, and it’s actually lenticular. The balloon itself and the basket must weigh at least a couple of pounds. According to a handy pediatric growth chart, a 40-pound six-year-old would be pretty seriously underweight. I bet he was never on board.

    Check the family’s property, and see if he’s hiding behind the shed or in the basement.

      1. The CNN estimate is 20 feet in DIAMETER. The standard formula for cylinder volume uses RADIUS as an input. Divide by two. Also, I revised the CNN estimate based on the photo, which makes the craft look closer to 12 feet in diameter (i.e. 6 feet in radius). People tend to overestimate sizes of shiny objects.

          1. My bad. I see that you did use 10 feet as the radius to get that figure. But I still don’t buy the original size estimate, given the first photo of the thing on the ground with a guy standing right next to it. He’d have to be 9 feet tall for that to be a 20-foot diameter saucer.

        1. The diameter of the balloon looked wider than the length of the Ford F150 crew cab truck next to it. The crew cab is 19 and a half feet.

    1. I read that the balloon was 20 feet by 5 feet, should lift around 70 pounds, so yeah, a light plywood basket and 6 y/o boy a possibility. I’d be looking along the flight path for an injured boy, more likely early in the flight, as he’d likely be frightened by the gyrations and turbulence. The winds were a bit strong this morning.

    2. It’s not a cylinder; it’s an oblate spheroid.

      The volume equation for a spheroid is 4/3 pi a^2 b, where a is the radius of the true circular axis, and b is the radius of the non-circular axis. If the measurements in the article are correct, then a is 10 feet and b is 2.5 feet.

      4/3 * pi * 2.5^2 * 10 = 261.8 ft^3.

      Assuming that the guy above is correct and helium lifts 28.2 grams per cubic foot, then the balloon would lift a whopping 16 pounds… about enough for the balloon and the basket.

      Lots of grief over nothing if you ask me. That’s why you don’t listen to UFO quacks.

      1. that’s for a prolate ellipsoid. you want to swap your minor and major axes. then it turns out much closer to the cylindrical approximation which isn’t really so bad.

        1. The formula is right for both types of spheroids. I just messed up the calculation. Anyways, I have no defense for my stupidity. If I was going to go through the trouble of actually doing the calculation and come to a conclusion, I should have double checked it, or at least considered that it couldn’t be *that* different from the other calculations. :-/

      2. Your text is correct.
        However, your calculation needs to exchange ‘a’ and ‘b’:

        4/3 * pi * 10.0^2 * 2.5 = 1047 ft^3

        28.2 grams/ft^3 * 1047 ft^3 = 29.5 kg or ~65 lbs.

        Doesn’t change the fact that he was hiding in a box in the attic, of course…

  6. I want to thank Rick for not being afraid to tell the viewers to pray, I watch the show every afternoon. I met Rick in Homestead,Fl while he was reporting on Hurricane Andrew. Again thank you Rick.

  7. what I am curious about…, is the (in)actions of the first responders???
    are these guys dumb as a bag of hammers or what? why were they standing back and waiting when the balloon was on the ground? why didn’t someone immediately open the cargo bay hatch to let the boy out? (cuz at that time nobody knew if he was there or not) and omg, shoveling dirt onto the balloon to hold it down? wtf? ever hear of a pocket knife? its only mylar for goodness sake, just cut it and the helium escapes.

  8. Have you ever tried to hold on to a large kite? What if the boy was holding on to the rope? How long could he hold on, how high would he go, might want to check out tree tops?

  9. News must be hard to find,nothing happened,get passed this ,go on to some news ,this is not news ,this is drama…I have an idea,how about some good news instead of this crap,where are the fish biteing,where is the cheapest gasoline,where are some good places to eat,anything to do besides watch CNN,Call the Prez,see what kinda toilet paper he uses,get a life people….wzu2

    1. This is possibly more interesting for, you know, people with empathy, than top 10 lists of places to eat. Sorry for your missing out.

  10. there is no way that ballon would have been big enough to lift a kid, even one as small as a 6 year old, it’s more like a weather ballon

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