One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-Mission Aircraft”, primarily used for detecting and mapping wildfires, took on a new mission January 6. Its new job that night was related to the swarms of drones that have been seen in recent weeks over Colorado and Nebraska.
There are reports that up to 30 drones at a time have been flying in sparsely populated areas of the two states. A number of agencies are trying to figure out what the drones are doing, including the FBI, FAA, Air Force, and the Army. Authorities are looking for a closed box trailer or a large van with antennas that could be used as a command vehicle.
The operators of the drones may not have broken any laws, but the very unusual aviation activity has generated many questions.
The PC-12 spent almost five hours Monday night flying at 14,750-feet in an irregular pattern northeast of Denver. According to Fox News in Denver, “The joint operation found no verification of suspicious drones,” said Caley Fisher, a spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
On January 9 the Colorado Department of Public Safety released a statement about the PC-12 mission. Here is an excerpt:
On Monday, January 6, 2020, the MMA flew for 4.8 hours in northeast Colorado, communicating with law enforcement vehicles on the ground.
As calls came in reporting potential suspicious drone activity, the MMA was prepared to identify which ground resource was closest to the sighting in order to deploy that vehicle in search of more information. The aircraft typically flies 10,000 feet above ground level (AGL), well above drone operations.
The MMA has the capability to detect heat signatures; it did not detect any suspicious heat signatures or drones related to the drone reportings during its flight. During the flight of the MMA, every report of a suspicious drone was investigated and was resolved, and none was substantiated.
From the Daily Mail, January 9, 2020:
…Meanwhile, another drone sighting was reported near Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night. Television cameras for WOWT-TV spotted the mysterious flying object just outside of Mead, Nebraska.
An unmanned aircraft measuring about four-to-six feet was seen flying overhead. According to the news channel, the drone flew so close to the ground that the sound of the propellers could be heard on camera.
Local officials are baffled as to why anyone would operate a drone over an area that is entirely made up of rural farmland.
‘There’s not much out here to look at, so it kind of makes you wonder, well, if they’re not looking at anything, what are they planning, you know? Or whoever or whatever is going on?’ Saunders County Deputy Kyle Kennenbeck said.
The #FAA is investigating #drone sightings in Colorado and Nebraska. We take every report seriously and are working closely w/local, state and federal officials, airports, and aviation stakeholders to ensure public safety. Concerned citizens should contact local law enforcement. https://t.co/yausJOwy17
— The FAA (@FAANews) January 3, 2020
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim. Typos or errors, report them HERE.