Since late December, drone fleets have been spotted flying over rural Colorado sometimes in formations of up to 30 drones. The drones have expanded to neighboring states, and people in Nebraska and Kansas are reporting similar drone sightings.
What do we know about the mystery drones so far?
- Up to 30 drones are flying in formations
- The drones are flying at night, usually between 7 pm to 10 pm
- Reports indicate the drones have a wingspan of 6 feet or more
After weeks of sightings and investigating, it seems no one has any answers to who is flying the drones or what they are doing with the drones. There has been much speculation about these drones and many entertaining yet unlikely theories on what is going on.
Mystery drone investigation
As the reports continue to come in, the public still has no clue who is operating the drones or what they are doing. Officials from multiple local, state, and federal government agencies are investing the drones. After more than 70 local, state, federal, and military officials met in Brush, Colorado, "ten to fifteen" separate agencies came together to form a joint task force to help solve the mystery.
In Colorado, 90 drone sightings have been reported from November 23, 2019, to January 14, 2020, 14 were smaller-sized hobbyist drones.
Last Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, there were reports of a drone interfering with a Flight For Life medical helicopter while on its way to Fort Morgan, Colorado. The drone flew approximately 100 feet below the aircraft.
Officials and the public shouldn't take drones interfering with manned aircraft lightly. After this report, Governor Jared Polis offered up a state-owned plane to investigate the mystery drones.
"We don't want to wait until there's some accident. We've got to figure out what this is," Polis said. "The state can support the local governments, and yes, we can try to use our state plane to identify if there's a threat or where it's coming from."
On January 13, 2020, Colorado state officials announced they would be "scaling back" their investigation. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) reported that the Flight for Life helicopter incident was not related to the mysterious drones flying around northeastern Colorado.
Cause for concern or the new normal
From drones used for delivering goods to drones used for GIS mapping and surveying, many industries and companies are starting to utilize drones in their daily operations. So with more companies using drones, we will have to get used to seeing drones in the sky. Eventually, drones will be as commonplace as seeing an airplane in the air. Every time we see a plane, we don't question its intention and purpose.
But the fact is, not all drones have good intentions. Since drones are easy to use and purchase, they are very efficient and effective vehicles for carrying out nefarious acts. This is where we need to differentiate friend from foe, authorized from unauthorized.
How can we tell friend from foe, this is what Remote ID should help. These mystery drones illustrate the need for Remote ID perfectly. Remote ID is something many in the industry have been waiting on because it's supposed to be the catalyst for mass drone integration.
After much delay, the FAA finally announced the proposed rule that calls for most drones to have remote IDs that would let officials track them in real-time. The FAA is taking comments for the proposed ruling through March 2, 2020.
Residents have been cautioned NOT to shoot down the drones. In the meantime, they can report suspicious drone activity to authorities. Coloradans can submit reports on the CIAC website.
We will be updating this story as the investigation unfolds.