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Joe Biden outlines plans to catalogue unidentified aerial objects

Just days after US fighter jets shot down three unidentified aerial objects over North America, president Joe Biden announced plans to boost US capabilities for detecting and keeping track of uncrewed objects in its airspace to better distinguish between security risks and harmless phenomena.

In a speech from the White House on 16 February, Biden described the three unidentified objects shot down over Alaska, Canada and Michigan as having been a danger to commercial air traffic. Although the US is still trying to understand the identity and origin of those objects, Biden said there was no evidence of the objects having been related to any government surveillance programs – and that US intelligence believes them to have been private balloons launched for recreational or scientific research purposes.

“But make no mistake, if any object poses a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down,” said Biden.

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Four flying objects shot down by US jets: What we know so far

The US president drew a sharp contrast between these unidentified objects and a much larger balloon that was the first object to be shot down by the US military off the coast of South Carolina on 4 February. The US government has described that as being a spy balloon launched by China, which China has denied. “I make no apologies for taking down that balloon,” said Biden.

Biden confirmed earlier statements about the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – a military organisation operated by the US and Canada – having adjusted its radar sensitivity in the aftermath of the balloon shootdown to better detect small, slow and high-flying objects. He highlighted those changes as being the main reason for the detection of the three unidentified objects. “We don’t have any evidence that there has been a sudden increase in objects in the sky,” said Biden.

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China, UK and US are all boosting their spy balloon programs

Outlining the US government’s next steps, Biden described plans to create an accessible and up-to-date inventory of such objects in US airspace, along with developing “sharper rules” on how to deal with such objects. He also directed government officials to update rules and regulations for the launch of uncrewed objects in US airspace, along with asking the secretary of state to work with other countries in figuring out global standards for operating such flying objects.

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