News Release: Update on Colorado Department of Public Safety Investigations into Reports of Suspicious Drone Activity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 13, 2020

Contact

  • Micki Trost, Public Information Officer, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 303-472-4087

  • Caley Fisher, Public Information Officer, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control, 720-391-1565

  • Patricia Billinger, Public Information Officer, Colorado Department of Public Safety, 720-692-7570

 

Update on Colorado Department of Public Safety Investigations into Reports of Suspicious Drone Activity

Lakewood, Colo. - Jan. 13, 2020 - On Jan. 10, 11 and 12, the Colorado Department of Public Safety (CDPS) continued field investigations into reports of suspicious drone activity in northeastern Colorado. The investigations involved both air and ground-based resources deployed during the evening to search for suspicious activity and to respond to suspicious drone reports. 

In response to public concern over reports of unusually large-sized drones flying patterns in groups, CDPS has been gathering and analyzing information since November 23 and has conducted field investigations since January 6.  Personnel from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) and Colorado State Patrol have participated in these operations.  

On Jan. 10, field investigations increased due to the report of a drone in close proximity to a Flight for Life helicopter. After speaking to Flight for Life, the incident does not appear to be related to the northeastern drone activity. This determination was made based on the information shared directly with CDPS staff, including the incident that 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.

To date, CDPS has confirmed no incidents involving criminal activity, nor have investigations substantiated reports of suspicious or illegal drone activity. The Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC) will continue to receive and analyze suspicious drone activity reports.

Investigative facts and findings from the CIAC as of January 13:
Overall:

  • From Nov. 23 to Jan. 13: 90 reports of drone activity received by the CIAC

    • Of these, 14 were visually confirmed to be hobbyist drones by law enforcement. 

    • The 14 individual drones and operators were not identified. Nor did they fit the description of large wingspan drones traveling in groups.

  • Confirmed instances of illegal drone activity: 0

    • One instance of a drone flying close to a helicopter during the daytime was reported but has not been confirmed and/or identified as a violation.

During field investigative operation period:

  • From Jan. 6  to Jan. 13: 23 drone activity reports received by the CIAC

    • Sightings determined to be planets, stars or small hobbyist drones not meeting the description of large wingspan drones traveling in groups: 13 reports

    • Sightings ruled out as atmospheric conditions or identified commercial aircraft: 6 reports

    • Sightings confirmed by law enforcement but unable to identify: 4 reports

Contextual data from the FAA:

  • Colorado has a significant presence of legal professional and hobby drone operators:

  • Drone sightings from pilots are a common occurrence in the U.S. and in Colorado:  

Based on the data gathered and analyzed during these investigations, CDPS will scale back proactive operations but will continue to respond to and investigate reports of suspicious activity. The public can submit reports of suspicious activity through this web form on the CIAC website: https://ciacco.org/default.aspx?menuitemid=1095.

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

Hilkey added: “The efforts we have put forth on this issue have been valuable. In addition to gathering information, this past week’s operations have been an excellent opportunity for our teams to collaborate and hone their skills with new and emerging technologies.”

Daily media updates on this matter will not be issued unless new information is confirmed.  

Media release also posted to our news release archive.