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TV Outages in Eastern Panhandle

FAA Investigates Drones Circling Parts Of Colorado, Nebraska

NOEL KING, HOST:

Here is a mystery out of parts of Colorado and Nebraska. For the last couple of weeks, the night skies have been filled with dozens of drones in that area. No one knows who is flying them. No one knows why they're flying them. Corey Jones with Colorado Public Radio has the story.

COREY JONES, BYLINE: Witnesses say the drones often appear in groups, from half a dozen to more than 15, and they fly in large grid patterns overhead. People in at least seven adjacent counties in eastern Colorado and three in neighboring Nebraska have reported sightings in mostly rural areas. They say they're copter-style drones and that some are up to six feet wide. Captain Michael Yowell is with the Lincoln County sheriff's office in Colorado, which was first alerted to them by the public.

MICHAEL YOWELL: We've made phone calls to the sectors that, you know, typically use drones for their operations, and everybody at this point has said, no, that's not us.

JONES: A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman says the agency has launched a full investigation that also involves other government agencies, but he declined to comment on details. Local and federal officials will gather for a closed meeting in Colorado on Monday. The FAA requires drones that weigh more than about half a pound to be registered. But even if they are, there's no easy way to identify who's flying them when they're in the air or if they're being flown legally. The agency last week proposed a new rule requiring drones to have tracking technology. In Lincoln County, Captain Yowell says it's hard to even see the drones other than their flashing lights. And that's complicated the investigation.

YOWELL: We found it to be extraordinarily hard to get a picture or video of this. As fast as they're moving and obviously it's dark, it is - it's just a white blur.

JONES: Officials in Colorado say they don't believe the mysterious drones are related to any criminal activity. They just want answers. For NPR News, I'm Corey Jones in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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