Command vehicle focus of Colorado drone investigation

Colorado drones CBS

Circles spotlight two drones in this photo taken from CBS Evening News on YouTube.

MYSTERY WIRE — An interagency meeting brought about 75 people to the rural northeastern Colorado town of Brush to share information and strategy on finding whoever is responsible for mysterious drone flights that have dominated the region’s attention over the past several weeks.

The drones have been seen flying in a grid pattern about 150 feet above the ground since before Christmas, according to the first reports by The Denver Post.

The meeting, not open to the public, lasted about 90 minutes and involved local, state and federal agencies.

This report from CBS News includes a map showing the widespread area of the reports.

Officials are now on the hunt for “command vehicle” that might be controlling the drones, according to a statement from the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. Officials said they are looking for a “closed box trailer with antennas or a large van.”

“That’s something we can handle,” Lincoln County sheriff’s Cpt. Michael Yowell told The Denver Post. “That’s something on the ground. A drone 500 feet in the air, we can’t do much about that. A suspicioius vehicle in the middle of a county road is something we absolutely can.”

That scrap of information marks a turn in the investigation, which was reported late last week to involve the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI and Homeland Security. County sheriffs that had been communicating with media have stopped since word of the FAA investigation.

The FAA has also moved ahead on a proposed rule requiring drones to be identifiable by remote means.

Denver’s Fox 31 reports that Morgan County Sheriff Dave Martin will be leading a task force to investigate the drones.

Media attention on the drones and the government response has expanded, with the New York Times, CNN and the BBC all paying attention.

Weekend speculation turned attention to a Cheyenne Air Force Base. A report from The Gazette, the newspaper in Colorado Springs, confirmed that Air Force Global Strike Command conducts “counterdrone exercises.”

But Lt. Jon Carkhuff, a spokesman for the base, told the Post on Monday that the drones aren’t flying from the base.

Drone experts told Fox 31 they believe the drones are connected to the military. Chris Swathwood told the station one of the drones “likely surpassed 8 feet in size, and it was equipped to take off vertically while soaring for hours at a time.” That kind of drone likely cost more than $100,000 to build. That points to military contractors.

The FAA issued this statement:

We take every drone-sighting report seriously. Multiple FAA divisions are working closely with federal, state and local stakeholders to try to determine whether the reported sightings in Colorado and Nebraska are drones and, if so, who is operating them and for what reason. The purpose of today’s meeting was for the various agencies to share information and to discuss how we can most effectively collaborate in our efforts.

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