The FAA had no idea who was flying swarms of drones over Colorado and Nebraska around the New Year and still doesn’t according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request filed by a group that normally investigates UFO sightings. The Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies unearthed emails and documents from the FAA, including detailed briefing notes prepared for FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, that show the agency was as much in the dark about the well-documented drone sightings as everyone else seemed to be. The documents were reported by The Drive.
For about six weeks around the 2019/2020 holiday period, numerous witnesses, law enforcement personnel and bystanders reported seeing formations of drones flying what appeared to be grid patterns over northeastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska. There was also an isolated sighting in Minnesota. The various reports were relatively consistent in describing the aircraft as being fixed-wing aircraft about six feet across and in some cases there was a larger drone that appeared to be leading a group of smaller aircraft. Whoever was flying them didn’t seem to care if anyone saw them as they frequently operated near highways and near towns. Numerous cellphone images and videos were supplied to FAA officials.
According to the briefing notes, FAA staff called everyone they could think of who might be flying the drones, including military, law enforcement, utility companies and drone researchers, and none of them said they knew anything about it. The sightings waned in January and there haven’t been any like them since. The briefing notes said that it would have been handy if those drones had been emitting discrete identification codes. “If they are UAS, this is an exemplar of why Remote Identification requirements, such as those put forward in the FAA’s recently released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, are critical to safety and security of UAS integration into the National Airspace System,” the briefing notes say.
Problem with that thought is that if these are being flown illegally, the owners aren’t going to comply with any ID rules. If flown by a secret government agency again having ID rules is not going to stop alleged agencies from illegally flying these drones. All those rules do is make it more difficult for honest operators.
So…. no laws were broken and no one was hurt. Why is this anyone’s business?
Does the FAA really believe that, if this was a military operation or some technology company testing new control systems for drones, that they would fess up and admit it was them? There is a lot of open land in that area with little population, so it would be a good place to test systems without much RF interference. Also very little radar coverage if they stayed down low. The area is also within a few hour’s drive on interstate highways from large cities like Denver or Omaha. Considering that the flights have not continued might indicate that whomever was doing them got the information they needed.
Time and time again, the FAA is unaware of the military/DHS operations…or at least claims it is unaware. My research revealed that there were many military drone operations being done during those times. But that research also showed that no one military, secret service, or DHS department is under any obligation to inform the FAA prior to flight. Sometimes the do, more often they don’t. Therefore it is difficult or impossible to determine who knows what, when, and where when testing new equipment, hardware, software, drones, UAS/UAV, etc., by various government agencies.
Part of the tests are to find out who notices, says what, when, and where. So far, the public seems to know more by capturing more video via cell phones, and calls into the local constabulary when, where , and what it sees. This is augmented by any data captured from flight tracking apps such as FlightAware. While some of this night drone/UAV/UAS airshow of sorts has been noted by ATC, overall, it seems like the FAA is the last to know much about anything regarding unusual aviation activity.
It appears a perfect storm of security data mining provided by concerned citizens while measuring the FAA’s response to the same stimulus. If you were testing the current FAA “system” for it’s ability to “see” your activity, why would you notify them in advance? The bonus is information gleaned from John Q. Public’s reaction or lack of reaction to whatever you launched into the skies. And if you really wanted to cover up what you are up to, inform the mainstream press via un-named sources ( because they were not authorized to speak to the press) suggesting alien, UFO activity and soon it’s not only speculative but will be political. Sort of like robbing the bank at high noon with everyone eyes wide open…and seeing nothing.