In a world where drones sightings are quickly becoming everyday occurrences, they are also being blamed for anything inexplicable that is spotted in the sky. Over the holiday season, drone sightings over Gatwick and Heathrow airports caused them to be shut down. Gatwick had to be closed for over 36 hours because of one drone sighting. These stories received a lot of media attention but investigations into the matter have yet to find the drones that caused the shutdowns or even confirm if there were ever any drones in the area to begin with. This is just the latest in a number of well publicized incidents caused by drones which may or may not even exist.
Situations such as these are becoming the norm. Back in 2016, the world reacted to claims that a drone had crashed into a passenger jet that was attempting to land at Heathrow airport. The U.K government released a statement a few days later which suggested that the object was actually a paper bag, not a drone. A pilot from Australia made a similar claim, but it later became clear that he’d just flown into a very bat. The FAA receives over 100 reports like this per month from concerned citizens who believe that they have seen drones flying near airports and manned aircraft.
Specialists in the drone industry do not believe that all those reports are credible. Investigations into these reported sightings revealed that many of these reports were vague, some were legal flights, and less than 4% of the reports involved near-hit incidents between manned aircraft and drones. Even the United States Government Accountability Office is skeptical about the FAA’s collection of reports. The number of unconfirmed drone sightings is so high that drones are taking over from UFOs as the primary cause of inexplicable events in the sky.
Centers that record UFO sightings claim that the number of sightings has been falling since 2014. This was around the time when consumer-grade drone technology became easy to acquire. No evidence is available to suggest that the increasing popularity of drones is related to the decline in UFO sightings but they could be a factor. People are more likely to say that the anomaly they saw in the sky was a drone rather than claiming to have seen a craft being flown by aliens.
The term UFO is a neutral description for anything weird that you see in the sky (Unidentified Flying Objects). It does not have to involve aliens, but UFOs and aliens are mentioned together so often that they have almost become synonymous. People tend to explain what they have seen based on what is the most plausible explanation. Aliens used to be the most plausible explanation for flying anomalies. For now at least, because of their popularity drones are the new default assumption.