Update on Colorado's mystery drones: New sightings over Glenwood Springs, space potatoes, and declassified Air Force emails

Update on Colorado's mystery drones: New sightings over Glenwood Springs, space potatoes, and declassified Air Force emails

The story only gets stranger and more dubious from here

VicesFebruary 25, 2020 By Will Brendza

The drones showed up out of nowhere and without any explaination. 

Between December of 2019 and January of 2020 there were hundreds of sightings across a huge swath of Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. Local police were inundated with reports, with panicked locals unnerved and unsettled. Describing fleets of huge drones scouring the Earth in grid patterns, flying at high speeds silently, in perfect formations across the land and under the cover of darkness.

Multiple government agencies got involved with the investigation, including the FBI, the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. Drone enthusiasts and journalists tried following these things, but to no real avail. Both Governor Polis and Senator Cory Gardner expressed their concerns over these mysterious drones — and, eventually, the Colorado Department of Public Safety sent up a high-tech surveillance airplane to pursue them.

Still, months later, no one knows anything. Or, at least, those who do know aren't coming forward with answers. 

Now, these mysterious drones, which are still unclaimed, have been sighted over Glenwood Springs — almost on the other side of the state from where they were first spotted.

Which is to say, these mystery drones are on the move. And, according to newly released government emails, the Air Force, FBI and FAA are all just as confused and concerned as the rest of us are. They say they have no idea who these drones belong to, where they came from, or what they’re doing.

But those emails do reveal some new information — some new eyewitness accounts from local police (that, unfortunately, only make the mystery more perplexing), and, a name of a mysterious anti-drone technology company.

Which might be the first real clue as to an explanation for all this. 

New sightings over Glenwood Springs

In the last Rooster article about these drones we considered the different theories about these drones’ origins, discussed the advanced nature of their design and who might be responsible for them.

Suffice it to say: These things are unlike any drones you’ll find on the public market, they are extremely advanced, can fly at very high speeds, move almost silently and fly together (in clusters reportedly as large as 30) in formations like fighter jets and along pre-programmed routes.

For a while, after the Colorado Department of Public Safety sent up their surveillance airplane, there wasn’t much news about these things. Sightings in that part of the state seemed to trail off and the furor around this story simmered. Reductionist journalists from news organizations like Vice and Our Community Now published stories claiming that the drones, which had made national and international news headlines, never actually existed; that the whole phenomena was just an extended hive-mind hallucination; that it was really just stars, commercial aircraft, hobbyist drones and a bunch of country bumpkins who couldn’t tell the difference between them.

Right.

Well, recently, sightings have once again picked up. This time in a totally different part of the state — on the other side of the continental divide, in the Roaring Fork valley, over Glenwood Springs.

And the M.O. is almost exactly the same: they show up just as dusk is settling (now around 7-10 p.m.) they fly over the area at different heights, with blinking red, green and white lights. They are, as the Glenwood Police describe them, larger than hobbyist drones.

One Glenwood resident, Michael McCallum, who witnessed the drones first-hand told the Vail Daily, “Some are very high that look like satellites, and others are lower and you can hear them,” he said. “They appear to be flying in straight lines, but no particular pattern.”

But, because these drones aren’t doing anything suspicious, and they are flying in a legal gray area without breaking any laws, there’s really nothing that the police say they can do. “If it were to become an issue, we would reach out to the FAA to try to investigate,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras, said.

Until then, though, the drones will be left alone. Left to do whatever it is they’re doing up there.

Released Air Force emails relate confusion

Recently, a volunteer researcher by the name of Douglas D. Johnson, submitted two freedom of information act (FOIA) requests to the Air Force about these drones. Reluctantly the Feds released several strings of emails between government agencies, that illustrate just how seriously the Air Force was taking this strange issue.

But not without heavily redacting names, conversations, entire emails and a lot of photographs. What the censors left in the emails, though, still paints a picture.

Throughout the correspondences, representatives from F.E. Warren Airforce Base (an ICBM military installation near Cheyanne, Wyoming) discuss the drone mystery with other government installations and military branches. They reached out to within their own agency and without, to ask if anyone had any knowledge of or involvement with these drones.

“Hey colonel:” one email from within the 90th Security Forces Group, of F.e. Warren Air Force Base reads. “Northeastern Colorado is in a tizzy about drone sightings. They all seem clustered in an area that has quite a few Minuteman sites. Do you know if security forces is playing with UASs [unmanned aircraft systems] up there?”

The response:

“100000000000% not us.” The Colonel wrote back. “I’ve seen some articles pointing the finger at us but I can definitely say this is not our team.”

“Minutemen sites,” are ICBM installations (like F.E. Warren Air Force Base). The line of questioning initiated an even larger federal investigation, that involved NORAD, USNORTHCOM, MAJCOM, AFOSI, the FBI, DHS, the USAF Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Directorate, and the FAA.

One 90th Security Forces Group email from January 7 reads, “As you can imagine this activity has gained the attention of our Commander here at NORAD and USNORTHCOM. We are fully engaged as well with our FBI and DHS representatives here."

In other words, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is the highest aero-authority in the nation; the most advanced and top secret (known) aerospace facility on the continent, said they couldn't account for these drones.

And if they don’t know what’s going on, who does?

Space Potatoes

Aside from betraying the Air Force’s confusion and frustration, the emails also expose some strange new information. That there are “mothership” drones, and that their dronelings are dropping space potatoes. Another email in the 90th Security Forces Group reads:

Sheriff’s deputies are responding and seeing the drones as well. They reported seeing a “mothership” 6’ in diameter flanked by 10 smaller drones (some fixed wing, some not). When deputies follow the drones, they clock them at speeds of 60-70 mph. The drones also appear to be dropping or picking up things that look like “potatoes” [Redacted]

The FBI in Colorado and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Omaha are currently looking into the sightings. Perkins County Sherriff’s Office has three of the potatoes frozen in storage and will likely transfer them to the FBI for analysis. The FAA is sending an agent to Colorado this upcoming weekend to help investigate and handle the news coverage.

What in the world are we supposed to make of that? The drones are either picking up or dropping potato-like objects? Which is it: picking them up or dropping them off? And what are they? And if the FBI has several of them in custody, frozen for analysis, do they know what they are yet? 

Even if if they did they wouldn't likely let the public know — in response to questions about these space potatoes, the FBI released a statement that said, "it would not be appropriate to provide any details."

That, in and of itself, makes this mystery all the more bizarre. Up until now, most of the likely theories about these mystery drones suggested that they were looking for something: be it oil, natural gas or rare earth mineral resources, geographical features, escaped alien prisoners, or lost nuclear warheads.

However, the idea that the drones are dropping things makes that theory harder to lean on.

The Denver Post published an article on February 6th claiming that the space potatoes had been identified as SOILPAM Tracklogs – a cheap tool used by farmers to fill in the wheel ruts left by center pivot irrigation systems…

So, we're to understand that these fleets of highly advanced mystery drones are flying around along pre-programmed routes dropping obscure agricultural tools all over the place?

The confusion only mounts.


Image courtesy of Dedrone.

The super-duper double-top-secret "Dedrone contract"

There is one last glimmer of useful information, that we can glean from the emails. And it might actually offer a glimpse at the real nature of this mystery.

In an email dated Jan. 2, 2020 with the subject line, “[Non-DoD Source] Quick question”, the sender asks, “Do you know if security forces is playing with [unmanned aircraft systems] up there [in Colorado]?”

Another email sent later that same day with the same subject line states simply, “I believe this is the Dedrone contract.”

Curious. Dedrone is a company contracted by the government which makes counter-drone technology; and, coincidentally, the Warren Air Force Base is one of six Department of Defense facilities that was selected to test the Dedrone platform in 2018 as part of a “Defense Innovation Unit.” In 2019 Dedrone published a press release that said they have, “been continuously testing, evaluating and using the capability for over a year.”

Could this drone mystery be part of a highly secret, nation-wide drone-defense system test? A new form of technology that needed to be exposed in order to be tested?

It’s not an unbelievable prospect. During a later, heavily redacted email, with the subject line “Autonomous Base Defense System” the sender writes:

Since this [capabilities] demo they have continued to develop and field their systems. To that end, they just successfully completed a very high visibility demonstration at [Redacted] that is continuing to drive interest and deployment of the system [Redacted] as well as a one-month long combat validation deployment to [Redacted] that was so successful they are now deploying four additional systems in country on a permanent basis.

The [Redacted] proposed Jan 15th to come to FEW [F.E. Warren] and provide a brief and answer any questions. I will work with your front office to get it on your calendar.

Then, on January 17th anonymous engineers from an unknown government organization arrived at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base to give a briefing on that unspecified autonomous base defense system.

After which, F.E. Warren Air Force Base had no further questions about the mysterious drone phenomena.

It seems from that string of emails, that there is some kind of top-secret drone project being run, that is so classified even ICBM nuclear missile Air Force bases aren’t in on the secret. It was only when the issue exploded, when local police were inundated with reports of these drones and the news filled with stories about them, they decided to finally brief F.E. Warren Air Force Base about what was actually going on.

Who are those engineers? What unknown government organization do they work for? And what went on in that briefing at F.E. Warren on Januray 17th? Oh to be a fly on the wall of that meeting...

Whatever these drones are doing, it seems clear from the released emails that the government does in fact know what's going on, even if the Air Force doesn't. They’re keeping the public and even branches of their own military, in the dark, on purpose while they test or observe or work on, whatever’s happening in our night skies.

Which sounds like some kind of Orwellian Manhattan-project.