"Drone" Photo over Colorado - Actually a Boeing 737

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
People are primed to see anything in the sky as a drone, including ordinary aircraft.

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/01/03/drones-mystery-lincoln-county-colorado/

TDP-L-Drone-RJS-0012 (1).jpg


An ordinary airliner with normal navigation lights. You can clearly see the starboard engine. Obviously not several hundred feet up. It's a larger object farther away.

Distances and sizes in a featureless night sky are ambiguous. Witness expectations about the size of the object lead them to see it as much closer than it is.

The people who spotted this airliner may have also heard the distant jet noises as the hum of a nearby drone.

It makes a convincing story.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
This is the story behind the photo.


Anyone want to take a crack at identifying the model? Maybe the exact flight?

TDP-L-Drone- Kropped large.PNG


The descriptions of the drones flying in a grid pattern also sound like airliners.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
I'm checking with the photographer to confirm where this photo was taken. I suspect it was at the intersection of CR 22 and CR 4D.

The metadata says it was taken at 8:12 and 32 seconds. Three 737's went right over this location within a few minutes following the same flight corridor. Right now the best candidate is SW 143 - a 737-7AD. But it would mean the clock on the camera is about 1 minute slow.

But that's what it looks like to me. A 737.

TDP-L-Drone-RJS-0012 zzzz.jpg
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
I just got confirmation that this photo was taken at the intersection of County Road 22 & County Road 4D.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Last+Chance,+CO+80757/@39.565,-103.6579101,16.71z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x876d7c329921b6bb:0xc59e3704f0d6e857!8m2!3d39.7408195!4d-103.5916136

Three 737s went over this spot in just a few minutes.

8:09 and 55 seconds p.m. MST
8 10 A.png




8:13 and 32 seconds p.m. MST
8 13.png



8:15 and 19 seconds p.m. MST
8 15 A.png



Beyond reasonable doubt this photo is of one of these 737s, probably the second one - SWA143.

And Lincoln County Sheriff Deputy Justin Allen was probably there at the moment this photo was taken. This would match up with this excerpt from the Denver Post article:

All three of these airliners at high altitude were misidentified as drones at hundreds of feet by three reasonable, intelligent people. And that includes one of the local experts.

The implications of that should be obvious.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
I want to be clear that I'm not making fun of these people. This is a very human thing to do. Vision and perception are complex. As I said, distances and sizes in a featureless night sky are ambiguous. Witness expectations about the size of the object have led these people to see aircraft as much closer and smaller than they actually are.

The study of the UFO phenomenon over the decades has proven beyond a doubt that people easily and routinely make these basic errors in size and distance estimates.

I think this strongly supports the idea that this whole thing is a classic UFO flap. A form of mass hysteria.

The static drones that hover are stars and planets. Those are the ones that have been chased. Venus and Sirius are the two main culprits.

The drones that move across the sky are mis-perceived aircraft.

(It should be obvious why these phantom drones only come out at night.)

This kind of thing has happened tens of thousands of times to perfectly reasonable people. There have been many UFO flaps since the first one in the late 1940's. This is just one more. People used to see flying saucers (that weren't there), now they see drones... that aren't there.
 
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Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
The static drones that hover are stars and planets. Those are the ones that have been chased. Venus and Sirius are the two main culprits.

The drones that move across the sky are mis-perceived aircraft.
I can see how airliners can be mistaken for drones but I have to admit I've always been puzzled by how anybody could mistake a bright star or planet for a "UFO". I know that it can and does happen, but in all the times I've been outside at night with Venus, Sirius or anything else visible in the sky, I have never managed to work out how I could turn them into anything other than a star or planet! They just never seem bright or obvious enough, to me.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I can see how airliners can be mistaken for drones but I have to admit I've always been puzzled by how anybody could mistake a bright star or planet for a "UFO". I know that it can and does happen, but in all the times I've been outside at night with Venus, Sirius or anything else visible in the sky, I have never managed to work out how I could turn them into anything other than a star or planet! They just never seem bright or obvious enough, to me.
I've done it twice! Firstly when Mars was really bright last year. When I spotted it I was driving towards it in my car, and it, of course, looked like it was moving. It also seemed brighter than Venus, and not were Venus should be (as it was Mars).

Then, Venus. It's right where the SF planes come from, so I managed to convince myself for over a minute that it was coming toward me, and very slowly rising.

Another time I wasn't fooled, but the Moon was rising, near full, over a nearby ridge while I was a passenger in a car going parallel to the ridge. The effect of the Moon hurtling through the sky just behind the ridge was quite startling, even when I knew it was it Moon. I've never had such an experience before (or after).
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
I've done it twice! Firstly when Mars was really bright last year. When I spotted it I was driving towards it in my car, and it, of course, looked like it was moving. It also seemed brighter than Venus, and not were Venus should be (as it was Mars).

Then, Venus. It's right where the SF planes come from, so I managed to convince myself for over a minute that it was coming toward me, and very slowly rising.
Actually I can think of one occasion where I was puzzled by what a star was, although I was fairly sure that it was a star or planet. I was cycling home two or three years ago and could see a light flashing vividly red and green, low down on the horizon. It was rather striking but I knew that stars scintillating in the atmosphere can do that. When I got home I checked a star map and saw that it was Arcturus, which is known for scintillation.

If I didn’t know about the scintillation effect then I could see how it might appear to be something else.
 
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