The mystery of unidentified flying objects has suddenly become much more complicated and I'm very unhappy about it. The cause of the additional confusion can be explained in one word: drones.
The remote-controlled aerial devices are showing up everywhere. Their benefits are touted by a large and growing fan base that includes federal and state agencies, local police forces, farmers, and plenty of backyard hobbyists. The sky is becoming a busier place every day.
As a boomer, I grew up hearing about flying saucers and space aliens at an early age. Grade-B science fiction movies from the 1950s were a fixture on late-night TV during my childhood. In my teens I read extensively about Roswell, the Mantell incident, Barney and Betty Hill, and other highly publicized close encounters. I'm familiar with various types of alleged abduction and descriptions of 'missing time.' You can call me an open-minded skeptic. I've made no conclusions but I'm always willing to consider any evidence that seems compelling.
The proliferation of phone-cams during the past few years was, in my opinion, a huge benefit for UFO research. It created myriad opportunities for gathering and analyzing visual images of peculiar aerial sightings. The sheer number of cameras being operated around the globe at any given moment made me believe that sooner or later we'd get something truly conclusive like close-up footage of a landing. Perhaps a witness might sneak through an open door and bring back pictures from inside the craft. Or maybe we'd find out all those supposed 'objects' had an optical/atmospheric explanation. The statistical probability of an authentic breakthrough event that would resolve the puzzle seemed promising.
Suddenly everything has changed. The evidence pool is being polluted by an ever-increasing presence of small, sophisticated flying machines that are totally terrestrial in origin. It won't be long before drones become the default explanation for every shiny speck or glowing orb that traverses the wild blue yonder. They also present an array of new opportunities for UFO-related pranks and hoaxes.
These sad realizations all came crashing down on me recently as I was driving home from work and experienced my first drone flyover. While waiting at a stoplight next to a shopping center, I noticed a bright bluish light in the sky directly ahead. How do I know it wasn't a plane or helicopter? I've seen plenty of them in the past, along with hot air balloons, kites, and even streaking green meteorites that broke into pieces.
This object was different. It moved slowly, hovered, went dim and then brightened, and was definitely at a low altitude. The stoplight changed to green just as the object passed over my car. I pulled into a gas station, jumped out and looked up, but could not regain visual contact. There was no feeling of awe or mystery. I drove home and said to my wife, "I think I just saw a drone." She went online and found out there's a drone store in the shopping center where the sighting happened. I was probably witnessing an aerial test drive.
"Keep watching the skies!" is a famous line from the 1951 version of 'The Thing' and it always gave me a feeling of excitement and foreboding. It's entirely possible the truth really is out there, but good luck finding it now. The era of drones is in full flight. I'm pretty sure it means my hopes of getting a final answer to the Great UFO Riddle have been permanently grounded.