Theories Spread about Unexplained Drone Sightings in Rural US

    20 January 2020

    People claim they have seen large groups of drones flying through the night sky across rural areas of the United States. Their mysterious appearance has raised questions and launched an investigation.

    Officials in the western state of Colorado say they have found nothing unusual or criminal about the drones. They were mostly operated for personal enjoyment, commercial purposes, or weather-related events.

    But the investigation that followed the drones in Colorado with sightings into Wyoming and Nebraska will not ease the minds of many people. Theories about drones said to be as big as cars, flying in organized groups at night continue to spread.

    This Jan. 2, 2020, photo shows red lights from wind turbines in the distance in the area of Genoa and Hugo, Colorado, where sightings of unidentified large drones in the air have been reported.
    This Jan. 2, 2020, photo shows red lights from wind turbines in the distance in the area of Genoa and Hugo, Colorado, where sightings of unidentified large drones in the air have been reported.

    Dan Carlson claims to have seen the drones four times after dark near his farm outside Sidney, Nebraska. He says the military or defense companies may be involved.

    The drones flew in groups of two on two nights, he said. Their speed, the distance they traveled, and the nearby missile sites makes him suspect the U.S. Air Force knows of the flights.

    Carlson believes the drones may be involved in some kind of military search-and-recovery practice. He suggests they are seeking out items hidden around the countryside during the daytime for training exercises at night.

    "I do not buy into the conspiracy theories. I am not living in fear of an alien invasion," he told the Associated Press.

    F.E. Warren Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, oversees 150 nuclear missile sites in the three neighboring states of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. The missiles need regular checking, maintenance and protection against threats. But Air Force officials say they have not seen the drones and they have nothing to do with them.

    An Air Force spokesman said, "Our base is kind of a drone no-fly zone. So we do have ... training that goes on ... But any drones spotted outside ... are not part of our fleet."

    Colorado state officials reported that the state has over 24,000 registered drones. And there were over 2,200 drone sightings in Colorado in 2018.

    In early January, Colorado officials used a heat-detecting plane working with investigators on the ground to follow reports of drone sightings. Of 23 drone reports, they found 13 small drones were flown for personal enjoyment, six were commercial aircraft, and four were unidentified.

    Carlson said the drones he saw came within 2 to 3 kilometers of his house, flying about 250 meters high. One sped away when he drove after it.

    On cold winter nights, Carlson said he can usually hear the sound of an airplane clearly. "It was the kind of night that if an airplane flies over at 30,000 feet, you hear it. No sound with these," he said.

    I'm Pete Musto.

    Mead Gruver reported this story for the Associated Press. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    drone(s) – n. a type of small aircraft that flies without a pilot

    commercialadj. related to or used in the buying and selling of goods and services

    sighting(s) – n. an act of seeing something or someone that is rarely seen or difficult to see

    practicen. the activity of doing something again and again in order to become better at it

    conspiracy theoriesn. theories that explain events or situations as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups

    maintenancen. the act of keeping property or equipment in good condition by making repairs or correcting problems

    zonen. an area that is different from other areas in a particular way

    fleet – n. a group of ships or vehicles that move or work together or that are controlled or owned by one company

    detect(ing) – v. to discover or notice the presence of something that is hidden or hard to see, hear, taste, feel or smell