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Task force formed to investigate mystery drones, search begins for ‘command vehicle’

As officials announced the start of a task force to solve the drone mystery, they also said they’re searching for a “command vehicle” related to the situation.

BRUSH, Colo. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and sheriffs from multiple rural Colorado counties held a closed-door meeting Monday to discuss the drone sightings that have sparked national media attention and now a full-blown investigation.

While the owner of the mysterious drones remains unknown to both federal and local agencies, officials did emerge from the meeting with one bit of news: They're searching for a mysterious vehicle as well.

The media were not allowed to enter the gathering in Brush, Colo., on Monday morning, but representatives from 77 different agencies – including the military – were in attendance.

“Today’s meeting was really for a wide variety of agencies to get together to share information and to discuss how we can best collaborate going forward to try and find out exactly what’s going on,” Los Angeles-based FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said.

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The drones have been spotted over rural parts of eastern Colorado and southwestern Nebraska. At this point, Gregor said no private company or public agency has come forward to claim the drones.

“We have contacted drone companies, we’ve contact UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] test flights,” Gregor said. “We’ve contacted companies that have waivers in the area to try to see if they could be the source of these reports, and so far we’ve been unable to determine that any of those entities [were] the source of those reported flights.”

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Gregor said the FAA is working with local and federal law enforcement agencies to determine who the operator is – and what, exactly, they're doing. 

One of those local agencies is the Phillips County Sheriff's Office, the first agency to publicly discuss the drone reports. The department posted about them on Facebook on Dec. 20. In a new Facebook post on Monday, following the meeting with the FAA, the sheriff's also announced it's looking for a "command vehicle" related to the drone sightings:

"A strategy meeting was held today in Brush, Colorado with Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies regarding the drone issue. None of the agencies can confirm that the drones are malicious. A task force has been organized and we are asking for your assistance. Specifically, we are looking for the command vehicle. We are looking for a closed box trailer with antennas or a large van that does not belong in the area. If you see anything that resembles this description, please call the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office at 970-854-3644. Thank you."

Both Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) have called for investigations into the mystery drones.

In addition, Gregor said the FAA has reached out to airports in the areas where the drones have been reported to ask pilots to report sightings and people potentially operating drones on the ground.

Gregor declined to speculate about who may be responsible for the drones – a sentiment echoed by Morgan County Sheriff David Martin, who is heading up a “drone task force” made up of more than a dozen agencies.

“It is very unnerving for our citizens, not only in Morgan County, but throughout northeast Colorado,” Martin said.

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Sedgwick County Sheriff Carlton Britton said he’d also like to be able to answer the questions his community has about the drones.

“A couple nights ago, I was actually sitting at my house eating dinner, and I heard what sounded like a low flying helicopter come in over the town, and went outside and saw what is consistently with what we’ve been seeing over the past couple of weeks,” Britton said. “Basically it’s a black box, it’s at night. I mean it’s a rectangle box that has navigation lights blinking on all sides of it, moving in an east-west pattern throughout our county.”

Britton said he’s heard numerous conspiracy theories, but he’s hoping the investigation turns up “evidence and facts.”

Micki Trost, the spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, told 9NEWS on Monday her agency reached out to its federal partners last week.

Specifically, CIAC contacted NORTHCOM about any military activity and they denied any involvement. This includes Warren Air Force Base -- which is significant because potential operations there were the subject of one recent media report claiming it was a potential culprit for the drones.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Warren told 9NEWS the northeast Colorado drones were not theirs. 

Last week, 9NEWS spoke to 24 private companies and government organizations who claimed they weren’t responsible for the drones. That includes Uber, Amazon, Google and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

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