It’s one of the strangest phenomena in the United States. Residents of eastern Colorado and western Nebraska have reported seeing drones with six-foot wingspans flying over nine counties in the two states between 7:00-10:00 p.m. What makes the drones so mysterious is that no one is claiming responsibility — not the government, not the military, nor any government agency has said the drones are theirs.
Amazon, Paragon Geophysical Services, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado Department of Transportation and UAV Recon have all denied connections to the drones, according to the Denver Post.
In an emailed statement to the Denver Post Monday, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency will be proposing a rule change that would allow law enforcement and federal security agencies to remotely identify drones that fly through their jurisdictions.
It’s not only that the drones are unidentified, it’s their numbers as well as their bizarre behavior.
Inside the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in Hugo on Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Tom Nestor and Capt. Yowell stared at a county map hanging in a narrow hallway.
It’s dotted with blue and yellow thumbtacks, depicting sightings from across the county of just under 5,500 people. There’s a series of tacks clustered around Interstate 70 in Limon, with a few scattered north and south of the interstate. Some people reported the drones flying in packs. Others saw solo flights.
“This one here just sat overhead for 90 minutes,” Yowell said, pointing toward a tack pinned near Limon.
The government appears to be taking the situation very seriously. The FAA has “boots on the ground” in the area and is investigating to see if the drones are a threat to commercial aviation.
Authorities thought they had discovered a pattern to the flights, but that turned out to be a dry hole.
Yowell and Nestor thought they had figured out a pattern: The drones first were seen after Christmas in the northern part of the county and worked their way south, mostly flying in rigid, grid-like patterns. They traveled across the county horizontally, down a bit, then made their way back across in the other direction.
The Lincoln County officials expected sightings to grow in the southern part of the county as the drones made their way down the state. Those reports never came.
“There’s just no rhyme or reason to any of this,” Yowell said.
It could be a private company looking to develop land in the area and they aren’t fessing up to the flights because what they’re planning could prove to be unpopular. It could be one government agency or another — including the military — where paperwork on the drone flights got lost or wasn’t shared with the right people.
Still, everyone likes a mystery and when they find some mundane explanation that the conspiracy theorists won’t believe, I’m sure we’ll all be reassured.