Investigators in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas have said they are still in the dark about mysterious drone swarms that plagued the night skies earlier this year, flying in formation around a strange ‘mother ship’.
Administrators with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) even joked about them being UFOs.
In a December 31, 2019 email, FAA administrator Steve Dickson told FAA chief of staff Angela Stubblefield: ‘not too long ago we would have called these ‘UFOs’.’
Stubblefield responded ‘Yep! Now everything is a drone!’
A swarm of drones was apparently captured on camera a few miles outside Omaha, Nebraska
Up to 50 drones would be seen on any given night from December 2019 until early January.
Some of the drones were ten feet wide, and had bright lights as they flew silently in formation.
Their owners and operators remain a mystery.
Senior FAA officials were able, however, to conclude that ‘there is high confidence these are not covert military activities,’ according to a detailed report in The War Zone.
The site published the work of Douglas P. Johnson, a volunteer researcher affiliated with the Scientific Coalition of UAP Studies – UAP referring to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.
Johnson utilized the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain many hundreds of pages of emails and other pertinent documents from the FAA and other federal agencies.
He found that the drones were spotted widely across the region.
Drones sightings were reported in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska in December and January
In December, Stubblefield wrote in an email that several ranchers and farmers in Nebraska had reported sightings of the drones.
On December 31, Michael Sanford, FAA aviation officer wrote in a report: ‘The drones are reported to have 6’ wingspans and there are several reports that indicate the drones are operating in coordination with a ‘Big Drone’ that may be stationary in the area.
‘There is also an unverified report of the larger ‘drone’ potentially landing and taking back off from an airport in Imperial, Nebraska (Chase County).
‘This larger drone, also described as a ‘Mother Ship’, is said to hover while all the others fly around in close proximity.
‘The large drone, as described, is about 5-6 feet in diameter with a cylindrical shape and a red front.’
On the same day Special Agent Michael Bumberger of the FAA reported that a sheriff’s deputy in Chase County, Nebraska, observed 30 to 50 flying independently of each other, with a larger ‘mothership’ hovering for hours.
‘The deputy stated it the larger drone appeared to be way over 55 pounds,’ he wrote.
On January 5, Bumberger said his team spoke to sheriffs in 16 counties in Colorado and Nebraska and ‘each agency contacted advised at least one deputy has witnessed the activity.’
He reported seeing the drones ‘flying a grid type pattern and remaining airborne for several hours at a time’.
Farmers, ranchers and sheriffs all reported seeing the strange aerial formations
Bumberger said the number of drones ranged between two and 16, flying for up to three hours at 200-300ft.
Around the same time, in early January 2020, a lieutenant in the Kansas Highway Patrol described a sighting ‘by one of our K-9 Troopers’ near Oakley, Kansas.
‘He said one of the drones had a really bright light on it, like a spot light,’ the lieutenant wrote.
‘That drone stayed relatively stationary at that location. He then said there were anywhere from 10 to 15 drones that flew all kinds of patterns around that stationary drone.
‘At one point one of those drones flew directly over his house.
‘He had his night vision with him so he tried to look at it. Some of the lights on the drone drowned out a good picture with the NVG’s, but he said he thought he saw 4 rotors on the drone as well as a horizontal stabilizer or wing.
‘The wing appeared to be about 10 foot in length.
‘He said the drone was about 200 feet in the air and made absolutely no sound at all, even though the wind was calm.’
Debris from the drones was even located.
One email showed that they had found ‘space potatoes’.
According to an FAA email: ‘FBI from North Platte advised the strange items referred to as space potatoes have been identified as Tracklogs.
‘The gel is made up of poly-chloride tablets in a mesh stocking.
‘When they get wet they form a log which replaces the dirt that was displaced by the pivot machine’s wheels.’
‘Space potatoes’ turned out to be a gel substance used to replace dirt in the wheels of the craft
The documents Johnson obtained reveal a high level of interest in the investigation on the part of U.S. Senators Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, and Deb Fischer, another Republican from Nebraska.
‘I’ve been in contact with the FAA and I’m encouraged that they’ve launched a full investigation to learn the source and purpose of the drones,’ Gardner said in a December 31 press release.
‘I will continue to closely monitor the situation.’
Gardner’s office staff reported concerns from the local farm bureau that the drones ‘have been disturbing cattle operations and may have caused injuries, and that the drones are flying closely to some of the general aviation airports in the area.’
They were also worried about how long it was taking to identify the controller of the drones.
Gardner made his concerns public on January 8.
In one email two FAA employees joked about the drones being a UFO
‘I think this shows a significant gap in our understanding and national security understanding of the threat drones pose,’ he said.
‘If we can’t find out who they are, how they are being controlled, who is controlling them, what is to keep a nation like Iran or North Korea from looking at this instance and saying ‘Boy now we should come out and do the same thing with cameras and sensor equipment to find out the kinds of things that would help with international security’ – so I think it is a concern.’
A closed-doors meeting attended by 77 people was convened by Morgan County Sheriff Dave Martin in Brush, Colorado, on January 6.
Those attending included representatives of the FBI, FAA, Gardner’s office, and counties across Colorado and Nebraska.
Bumberger wrote that ‘the meeting did not provide an answer or new leads’ but that ‘several good things came from it.’
After the meeting, however, the sightings of the drones tapered off.
The FAA initially thought it could be related to pipelines in the area.
But in January, a memo to FAA Administrator Dickson summarized the results: ‘We have contacted entities (UAS companies, pipeline operators, colleges, etc.) that have received permission to operate UAS in these areas, but to date, none of these approved operators have been determined to be the source of the UAS operations.’
The emails also show that the FAA monitored mystery-drone-related Facebook groups for reports and leads.
No one is yet to provide a definitive answer as to who was behind the strange phenomena.