Drone sightings

Reports of mystery drones have made their way to Washington County.

Swarms of drones — some with six-foot wing spans and multicolored lights — flying in grid formations at night were reported in northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska in late December and early January.

The nighttime drone sightings moved east with new reports near Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Columbus and Fairbury.

Now, Washington County has received reports.

According to the e-patrol update from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, a drone sighting was reported in the Lakeland subdivision south of Blair. Sheriff Mike Robinson said deputies have also reported seeing drones west of Blair and south toward Omaha.

However, Capt. Aaron Brensel said these sightings are only single drones, not the clusters reported elsewhere in the state, and are likely hobbyists.

Brensel said reports are increasing due to people's awareness.

“They are filling up the skies more,” he said.

Deputies are keeping watch on the sky as well, he said.

“We are cognizant of it and looking for it,” Brensel added.

Who the cluster of drones belong to remain a mystery. Likely suspects such as Amazon and gas and oil and drone companies have denied ownership, according to the Denver Post. Most government agencies have also denied involvement.

“There is a legitimate mystery here,” UNL Drone Journalism Lab professor and Blair native Matt Waite said in a press release. “Multiple people in multiple places have reported seeing multiple large drones –— estimated at six-foot wingspans — flying in formation in a grid pattern after dark. This is not typical, and the operators are not known.”

But every blinking light in the sky is not a mystery drone,” Waite said.

“People have reported airplanes, planets, satellites and other airborne sightings as drones to law enforcement,” he said.

Robinson encouraged residents to report sightings of drones to the sheriff's office.

The Nebraska Information Analysis Center encourages the public to report suspicious activity using the NIAC reporting tool at sars.nebraska.gov

The Nebraska State Patrol has asked people to report drone sightings to law enforcement as follows:

• Report any clusters of four or more drones

• Report the location, general direction of travel and movement of the drones.

• Lighting configuration, number of lights, color, any patterns to the lights. Estimated size of the drones. Is it a fixed wing? Multi-rotor? What sound did it make?

• Did it fly straight, side to side, up and down, in a grid pattern, over an area? How long did it fly like that? How long were they in the air?

• NSP is also asking for people to look for potential control vehicles, like SUVs or vans, possibly with an antenna.

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