Amid growing skepticism among experts, Colorado officials are scaling back a statewide investigation of enigmatic drone sightings.
The alleged mystery began on Dec. 23 when northeastern Colorado residents reported fixed-wing drones traveling in what appeared to be a steady pattern over several counties. A multi-agency task force formed two weeks later to investigate with representatives from more than 70 local, state, federal and military agencies.
After a highly publicized, week-long probe of the incidents, the Colorado Department of Public Safety announced a de-escalation of “proactive operations,” adding the agency will “continue to respond to and investigate reports of suspicious activity.”
“Despite all of the reported activity, we are still unaware of any crime being committed,” CDPS Executive Director Stan Hilkey said in a press release.
“While I can’t conclusively say we have solved the mystery, we have been able to rule out a lot of the activity that was causing concern. We will continue to remain vigilant and respond as new information comes in.”
A CDPS breakdown and timeline revealed:
- From Nov. 23 to Jan. 13: 90 reports of drone activity received by the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC)
- Of these, 14 were visually confirmed to be hobbyist drones by law enforcement.
- The 14 individual drones and operators were not identified. Nor did they fit the description of large wingspan drones traveling in groups.
- Confirmed instances of illegal drone activity: 0
- One instance of a drone flying close to a helicopter during the daytime was reported but has not been confirmed and/or identified as a violation.
During field investigative operation period:
- From Jan. 6 to Jan. 13: 23 drone activity reports received by the CIAC
- Sightings determined to be planets, stars or small hobbyist drones not meeting the description of large wingspan drones traveling in groups: 13 reports
- Sightings ruled out as atmospheric conditions or identified commercial aircraft: 6 reports
- Sightings confirmed by law enforcement but unable to identify: 4 reports
Earlier this week, Vice journalist Aaron Gordon noted drone experts were skeptical about the scope of the sightings:
“A seemingly minor detail lacking from these reports is that there’s precious little evidence these drones actually exist. That’s not to say this is some hoax or all the eyewitness accounts are wrong. … But this lack of evidence has not been lost on drone hobbyists and advocates. They have seen this play before.”
As of the last quarter, more than 24,030 drone users had registered with the FAA.