S p e c i a l   s h a p e s 

Where an ordinary hot-air balloon will rarely prompt someone to report a UFO, such is not the case for its less common variant : the special shape balloon. Although still in the minority, these special shapes are increasing in number every year. At festivals and special events, one encounters more and more balloons that have the shape of a popular cartoon figure (such as Mickey Mouse or Smokey Bear), an animal (ranging from a frog to a cow and from a parrot to a horse), or any common household item that you can imagine (such as a mobile phone, a shoe, a beer bottle or a newspaper). Almost all special shape balloons are owned by companies who want to advertise or promote their product in an original manner. Even balloons in the shape of a classic flying saucer have been built, and its only understandable that someone watching such a contraption fly by from a distance, will be more than a little confused. In most instances the basket underneath the balloon is the give away, but some clever designers have found ways to incorporate the basket into the design so that it is visible only from close by.

When a witness claims to have observed an oddly shaped object moving slowly, in a straight line through the daylight sky, it is important to check the wind direction in order to determine whether or not the unknown object may have been carried by the prevailing air currents. In doing so, one should not forget that surface winds can come from a different direction than winds blowing at higher altitudes. It is therefore preferable to check the soundings from a meteorological balloon and not just rely on weather data recorded by a local ground station. Another step to a possible identification is to verify if there were any festivities in the area at which balloons may have been launched.

Investigators should also not forget that an equally broad range of shapes exist for large size, helium-filled, tethered balloons.