The U.S. Navy has begun recovering the pieces of the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.
In a press release, Navy officials said "the recovery effort began about 10 a.m" on Tuesday morning, after rough seas had stopped them from beginning the operation the night before.
Officials said five Navy ships were dispatched to the area to cover 10 square miles of the Atlantic coast. The Navy was able to use advanced reconnaissance drones to surveil the ocean floor, and was able to easily locate the debris.
According to The Associated Press, after collecting "all of the balloon's white fabric and shell structure found floating on the surface," Navy divers have "now shifted to an all-underwater search for the remnants of the massive balloon."
The balloon was first spotted last week hovering over Montana. It eventually made its way east and was seen by eyewitnesses in numerous states, before finally crossing through the Carolinas and making its way out to sea.
China has repeatedly insisted that the device was not used for spying, but was simply a meteorology balloon that was a "civilian unmanned airship." However, this is a sentiment both President Biden and the Department of Defense seem to have rejected.
The balloon was shot down by fighter pilots on Saturday on Biden's orders, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the balloon was "used by [China] in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States."
The Navy has also released a series of photographs showing the recovery of the balloon, which can be seen below: