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Close call with Flight for Life helicopter not tied to Colorado drone mystery, CDPS says

Colorado authorities plan to scale back their proactive investigation into the mysterious drones after finding no evidence of criminal activity.

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) said the close call between a drone and Flight for Life helicopter earlier this month is not related to the mysterious aircraft that have baffled authorities in northeastern Colorado since December.

“After speaking to Flight for Life, the incident does not appear to be related to northeastern drone activity,” a news release distributed by CDPS Monday afternoon reads. “This determination was made based on the information shared directly with CDPS staff, including the incident occurred during daylight hours, involved one drone, and the pilot cannot identify a specific location.

“Unfortunately, this type of drone incursion is an all-too-frequent event with medical helicopters and serves as an important reminder to drone operators to follow FAA operations guidance.”

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This was one of multiple revelations shared in the news release, including the fact that CDPS intends to scale back its “proactive operations” into determining who is responsible for what witnesses said are numerous large drones flying in a grid pattern in the night sky over northeastern Colorado.

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Nevertheless, CDPS said it will continue to investigate reports of mysterious drones in the area after it receives reports.

“The public has been worried about the reports of strange drone activity,” said CDPS Executive Director Stan Hilkey. “Our duty is to be responsive to community concerns and to investigate suspicious activity, and so we mobilized our teams to look into this.

“Despite all of the reported activity, we are still unaware of any crime being committed. While I can’t conclusively say we have solved the mystery, we have been able to rule out a lot of the activity that was causing concern. We will continue to remain vigilant and respond as new information comes in.”

The Phillips County Sheriff’s Office first discussed the drones in a Facebook post on Dec. 20. Since then, the aircraft have been reported in numerous surrounding counties in Colorado as well as southwestern Nebraska.

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CDPS said it had received reports of the drones as early as Nov. 23.

Despite national media attention, no one has come forward to claim the drones. The Air Force and companies like Google, Amazon and Uber have all denied flying unmanned aircraft systems in the area.

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As recently as this weekend, CDPS said it has been deploying both air and ground-based resources to determine who was responsible for the drones, but the agency said at this point, it hasn’t seen any suspicious aircraft.

These field operations have taken place since Jan. 6, CDPS said, and including personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Division of Fire Prevention and Control, and Colorado State Patrol.

Since, CDPS said it has not confirmed that any criminal drone activity has taken place. From Nov. 23 to Jan. 13, the agency said it received 90 reports of suspicious drones. Fourteen of those were confirmed to be hobbyists.

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From Jan. 6 to Jan. 13, meanwhile, CDPS said it received 23 reports of drone activity. Of those, 13 reports were confirmed to either be planets, stars or small hobbyist drones that were not as large as the mystery drones that had initially been described. 

Six of the reports were commercial aircraft or atmospheric conditions, and four of the sightings were confirmed by law enforcement but difficult to identify.

This report comes after dozens of representatives from multiple law enforcement, state and military agencies gathered to form what was essentially a de facto task force aimed at solving the drone mystery.

Reports that the drones could be tied to a van were found to be unsubstantiated, and searches by the CDPS have not yielded answers.

The public can continue to submit drone sightings at this link: http://bit.ly/35JtSGQ

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