A multi-agency task force is asking for the public’s help following a closed-door meeting on Monday at the Morgan County Sheriff’s office. Dozens of Colorado and Nebraska state officials met with the Federal Aviation Administration to talk about recent drone sightings.
Shortly after the meeting, the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office in Holyoke, Colorado, asked for help locating the command vehicle. “We are looking for a closed box trailer with antennas or a large van that does not belong in the area.”
The FAA released a separate statement. “We take every drone-sighting report seriously. Multiple FAA divisions are working closely with federal, state and local stakeholders to try to determine whether the reported sightings in Colorado and Nebraska are drones and, if so, who is operating them and for what reason.”
Swarms of mysterious copters have been flitting over remote regions of northeastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska for the past three weeks. They make residents “very nervous and anxious.”
They concern the investigators too. The sheriff of Morgan County, Dave Martin, will lead the task force.
Yuma County Sheriff Todd Combs posted support on Facebook. “There are many theories about what is going on, but at this point, that’s all they are. I think we are all feeling a little bit vulnerable due to the intrusion of our privacy that we enjoy in our rural community, but I don’t have a solution or know of one right now. All I can say is don’t live your life in the fear of the unknown.”
The cryptic flights, starting right after sundown, aren’t breaking any laws but the elaborate and expensive equipment isn’t being used by any of the locals, or law enforcement either.
“They’re pretty loud – basically they sound like flying lawn mowers,” Sedgwick County Sheriff Carlton Britton relates. His biggest concern is that a drone “could impede medical helicopters that fly into the remote area to transport patients to Denver,” some 180 miles away.
The craft are reported to be about 6-feet across and fly in attention grabbing “grid-like patterns hundreds of feet in the air in groups of six to 10.”
Drone pilots don’t have to file any flight plans. According to Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliott, the drones all stay about 200 to 300 feet above the ground as they fly a steady grid pattern about 25 miles across.
Also, to stay within the rules, they keep at least 150-200 feet from buildings and people. They always fly in airspace controlled by the federal government.
“They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern. They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
The Federal Aviation Administration called around to all the “drone test site operators and drone companies.” No luck. Then they called “federal law enforcement and national security agencies for assistance in identifying the aircraft.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Air Force, and the U.S. Army Forces Command all swear up and down they don’t know a thing about them.
After that, the FAA decided to go straight to the pilots. “The agency also has been in touch with several airports in the area, warning pilots to be cautious and asking them to report any sightings.”
Another factor that has the officials a little edgy are the incidents occurring in the Mid-East.
On Tuesday, CNN reported “US forces and air-defense missile batteries across the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones as intelligence mounted about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets.”