Unidentified aircraft over Midwest under investigation by FAA


Jared Barton 

Victor Huang, Ph.D. provides insight on unregulated drone aircraft. Photo courtesy of UNO Communications.

Nebraska authorities are following up on reports of drones flying over the state at night.

The drones are estimated to be roughly six feet across, with a variety of lights reported on the devices. Some have been reported as flying in formation, even following patterns.

The drones have been spotted flying over eastern Nebraska for just under a month and appear to be inching their way across the state in that time. Early reports started in Colorado, but since mid-December over 30 reports have been made mainly across Nebraska and even reaching into Kansas.

Dr. Victor Huang, an expert on drones and a member of UNO’s flight program, said in an interview with KETV that the devices are likely operating illegally or under government supervision. So far, the Air Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Army Forces Command has denied responsibility.

According to Huang, drones are only allowed at below 400 feet, during the day and not within 500 feet of an airport, though these regulations are waived in some cases. If this is the case, given the FAA’s statement and Air Force’s denial of involvement, the devices’ circumstances are perplexing to say the least.

Huang also said there may be so few answers because it’s a sensitive or confidential operation, which could explain the denial of involvement.

“It could be something classified, so for the national security reasons we don’t get the results,” Huang said.

Having received so many reports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a statement last Monday addressing the reports and clarifying their involvement and investigation. The statement, posted on Twitter, said they take drone sighting reports very seriously and were working with authorities on federal, state and local levels in an effort to get the clearest answer.

The Phillips County Sheriff’s Department in Colorado has asked those who see the devices to keep a watch out for a “command vehicle,” which they describe as a closed box trailer with antennas or perhaps a dark inconspicuous van.

Phillips County sheriff Thomas Elliott said the devices fly in a square pattern, like a grid.

“They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern,” Elliot said. “They fly one square and then another square.”

At present, no parties have come forward identifying themselves as operators of the flying objects.