FORT MORGAN, Colo. — There is a growing consensus among those in Colorado's aviation industry that mysterious drones in eastern Colorado are in some way connected to the military.
A team of experts reached this idea after they spotted an unmanned aircraft near Brush on Friday night.
The team spent Friday scouring eastern Colorado for sightings, using specialized equipment to differentiate registered planes and helicopters from drones.
"We did get eyes on one about 200 to 300 feet above, and it was moving at about 100 knots," said Chris Swathwood, one of the experts scouring the skies for drone activity. "It was a large fixed wing aircraft. It was dark, and it had lights unlike any other manned aircraft would normally have."
Swathwood is the chair of the legislative affairs committee for the Colorado Aviation Business Association, and he's a seasoned drone pilot.
His team believes the drone likely surpassed 8 feet in size, and it was equipped to take off vertically while soaring for hours at a time.
"This aircraft could use a runway to take off, or it could be what we call a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing aircraft), which essentially would have some electric run props which would help it to take off, and then a drive motor engine in the back," Swathwood said. "It could be gas or electrical driven that allows it to cruise in flight."
Swathwood's team said the aircraft in question likely cost over $100,000 to build, ruling out most operators.
"These are very sophisticated, very high end, very specific and very targeted drones," he said. "We have the consensus that it's probably the military or a military contractor."
The U.S. Air Force has denied using similar drones in Colorado, as have a number of oil and gas companies in the area.
"Until someone comes forward, it's all speculation," Swathwood said.