CHEYENNE (AP) — An official investigation into reports of large drones flying in groups over the western U.S. plains in the hours after sunset has confirmed nothing illegal or out of the ordinary, a finding of little solace to folks who say the truth is still out there.
Investigators will scale back flights of a heat-detecting plane to try to corroborate reports as they’re made but will continue to look into new reports, Colorado officials said Tuesday.
“The Department of Public Safety is committed to still gathering investigation evidence,” Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokeswoman Micki Trost said.
The investigation focused on an area along Interstate 76 through northeastern Colorado but didn’t extend into Nebraska or Wyoming, where reports also have been made. Several confirmed drone sightings in Colorado turned out to be small hobbyist drones, known commercial aircraft or weather phenomena.
For Dan Carlson, who said he’s spotted and even followed large drones flying remarkably long distances near his farm in western Nebraska, the summary of findings puts little to rest.
“What I saw did not conform to either a hobbyist drone or a civilian-aviation aircraft,” said Carlson, a retired meteorologist.
For over a month, law enforcement agencies in eastern Colorado and much of Nebraska have been taking calls about unusual drone sightings. Silent drones as big as cars have been said to fly back and forth in the sky for extended periods after sundown.
F.E. Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, which oversees 150 Minuteman III nuclear missiles in silos scattered across the prairie in the three-state region, denied any involvement.
“Our base is kind of a drone no-fly zone. So we do have counter-UAS — unmanned aerial systems — training that goes on within the confines of this installation. But any drones spotted outside this installation are not part of our fleet,” base spokesman Lt. Jon Carkhuff said.
Base personnel haven’t seen any of the purported drones, he added, though they are cooperating with the Federal Aviation Administration and FBI.
Weird-drone reports from coast to coast abound on social media, but the local phenomenon may be tapering off in recent days.
“The sightings and the reports in my county have diminished incredibly,” Morgan County, Colorado, Sheriff David Martin said Tuesday.
But Carlson says he continues to encounter the offending aircraft. One drone he saw hovered over a missile command station within sight of his farm, he said, making him question the Air Force denial. He speculates that a military contractor could be testing new technology while the military maintains “plausible deniability.”