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FAA Task Force Investigates Mystery Drone Sightings

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Mysterious drones are flying over remote parts of Colorado and Nebraska. That's according to dozens of reports made in recent weeks. Nobody seems to have any clue where they came from or who's flying them. But the Federal Aviation Administration is taking it seriously. The agency has announced a new task force to try to solve the mystery. Colorado Public Radio's Natalia Navarro reports.

NATALIA NAVARRO, BYLINE: More than 70 officials from local law enforcement and agencies including the FAA and the FBI held a closed-door meeting in the little farm town of Brush, Colo., yesterday. They didn't tell the press much when they emerged. Authorities have been getting hundreds of reports of mysterious vehicles flying at night in the area, some as big as six feet long. The FAA's Ian Gregor says it's unclear whether the drones are violating any laws.

IAN GREGOR: Really, there are multiple reports, and they're not all identical. So I really can't weigh in on, you know, the legality of any particular report that we've gotten.

NAVARRO: Gregor says the FAA and local police have checked with drone companies, unmanned aircraft systems test sites, airports and an Air Force missile base in the area. None have been confirmed as the source of these reports. The FAA hasn't even confirmed that what people are seeing are drones at all.

DEANNA SCHWINDT: It's weird.

NAVARRO: Deanna Schwindt lives just south of Brush. She says she has seen drones fly over her house every night for more than a week.

SCHWINDT: Well, they got two red blinking lights and a white light and they look fairly good size. I couldn't tell you how big, but you just see the lights coming, coming from the east and blink.

NAVARRO: She says they make her feel...

SCHWINDT: Uncomfortable, creepy. It's like, why? What are they looking for?

NAVARRO: Dave Martin, the sheriff of Morgan County, Colo., says his deputies have seen the drones, too.

DAVE MARTIN: There is no local crime that I am aware of that has been committed, but it is very unnerving for our citizens, not only in Morgan County but throughout northeast Colorado.

NAVARRO: Sheriff Martin says the local rumor mill is rife with speculation and conspiracy theories. He worries about people who have threatened to shoot down the drones.

MARTIN: That's very dangerous. If you don't hit what you're aiming at, that bullet's coming down somewhere.

NAVARRO: The new task force says local agencies will now be sharing drone sighting reports with an analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. Airports have also been advised by the FAA to report unusual sightings. For NPR News, I'm Natalia Navarro in Brush, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF NINZE AND OKAXY'S "ORBIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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