Law officers are asking residents to report any strange vehicles parked on the back roads of Nebraska and Colorado, and report any vehicles that might be used as command centers for drone flights.
Dozens of officials met Monday in Brush, Colo. They talked, but they didn’t solve the mystery of the drones.
Nearly 70 law officers from the local, state and federal jurisdictions gathered to discuss the hundreds of drones that are reportedly flying over Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Lt. Dan Newton of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s office attended and told the Bulletin that people should be on the lookout for strange vehicles and call the sheriff’s office right away at 308-535-6789 if they see one, but not approach the vehicles.
“Don’t wait to report it, or it will be too late. We are working 24/7,” he said.
Newton also advised people not to shoot at the drones because it could be a federal offense, and also, stray bullets endanger the public.
He said law officers in northeast Colorado are especially concerned about endangering flights coming in and out of Denver International Airport.
“What goes up has to come down,” he said, referring to bullets that might be aimed at drones. “That would be dangerous.”
He also said a shooter could end up in federal prison.
On the other hand, people can and should help find the command vehicles, which he said could be parked 25 miles or so away from the drones in flight.
Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies tried to pursue a drone a week ago, keeping track of it with three vehicles along the way. They tracked it for about 12 miles, from near the North Platte hydro-power station to south of Hershey, where they lost it.
“We won’t try that again,” Chief Deputy Rolly Kramer said. “There’s no way to keep up with them.”
Newton estimates the drones can travel as fast as 100 knots. Officers at the meeting did not come to a consensus about what type of drones are being seen, so they could be shaped like airplanes or resemble helicopters (quadcopters or hexacopters), or both.
Newton said, “Somewhere, someone will turn a corner, find a vehicle, and break it open.”
The drones don’t seem to be doing any harm, even though they are apparently in violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Without an FAA waiver, drones cannot fly at night or above 400 feet. FAA officials said Monday at the meeting that the waiver list has been checked, but hasn’t turned up any likely suspects.
So, theories continue. Nevertheless, command vehicles are almost certain to be in the wider area.
Also, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Colorado Highway Patrol agreed Monday to set up a task force to keep track of and map sightings, hoping it provides some clues. The drone task force will be made up of roughly 10-15 law enforcement agencies, along with the FBI and the FAA.
Newton said with all the hubbub, the culprits may never come into the open willingly.
He said the drones could be doing some mapping or surveillance of some kind, although it doesn’t make much sense to do that at night. That was about as much as he cared to speculate.
“Until we actually catch an operator, we just don’t know,” he said.
He said there is no doubt that drones are flying in the night skies.
Newton said if someone finds a drone that’s crashed, “call law enforcement immediately and don’t touch it.”
“It’s criminal evidence,” he said. “We need to process it.”