Mystery drone over York, NE

YORK – The sightings of mysterious drones continued Tuesday night over the York News-Times coverage area, leaving everyone baffled as to who is operating them, why they are here and what operators are seeking to achieve.

The activity began again about 6:30 p.m., as it had Monday evening, and lasted well into the night.

The drones, flashing red and white lights, could be seen over York – but generally flying at higher altitudes than they had the night before.

Eric Eckert, digital director for the YNT, again followed the drones’ movements, noting they were moving quickly.

He reported following some north and east of from the area of the new wastewater treatment plant and losing them despite the fact he was driving the speed limit on Highway 34.

Eckert, who videotaped drone activity the night before, said he was unable to capture any video or still photographs Tuesday night because of the drones’ altitudes and speeds.

Eckert (who has experience operating drones) noted Tuesday – as he had Monday – that these drones are silent which is in vast comparison to typical market and hobby drones that are available to and operated by the general public.

Tuesday night, there were reports to the YNT of drone sightings over Lockridge Acres west of York, Bradshaw, Benedict, Stromsburg and Waco. At 7:30 p.m., York residents could see the movement of approximately seven drones moving in east/west/east/west patterns over the heart of the town.

Monday, the reports came in from the same areas, as well as including McCool Junction, Henderson and Geneva.

This week, Governor Pete Ricketts said during his radio/call-in show that no one should shoot at the drones in an attempt to bring one down. That response was given to callers who suggested that would be one way to determine who is behind this rash of nighttime activity over this area – as well as in western Nebraska, Kearney, Grand Island and now east of here.

The governor’s comments echoed what law enforcement has been stressing as well – noting that these drones are of such a size they would be considered license aircraft (meaning it would be illegal to shoot them down) and doing so could create safety hazards for those on the ground. There is also the concern of random bullets being shot about in communities and the rural areas. And it should be noted it is illegal to discharge firearms inside municipalities.

Governor Ricketts said government agencies are working together to determine who is responsible for this rash of drone movement in Nebraska.

There are concerns about the drones flying in prohibited zones near airports, which is one of many reasons the Federal Aviation Administration has joined the effort of determining what is happening.

The FAA released a statement that said it will “continue collaborating closely with our partners at the federal, state and local levels on identification efforts. We take every drone sighting report seriously.”

And federal representatives for this area are paying attention as well.

On Tuesday, Congressman Adrian Smith said in a statement that he reached out to the FAA “about finding the source of this unidentified drones and am concerned there seems to be no clear assessment of their source. We must protect the privacy and property rights of Nebraskans. I encourage Nebraskans to promptly contact local law enforcement with detailed accounts of confirmed sightings.”

And U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the FAA, released a statement saying she had personally spoke with the FAA administrator. “Nebraskans are rightly concerned about the recent drone activity. Administrator (Steve) Dickson informed me that, as of now, there are still no answers about who is using these drones. The FAA, FBI, Nebraska State Patrol and local law enforcement officials met to discuss how to address this problem. An investigation is underway and the best thing Nebraskans can do right now is continue to report drone sightings to law enforcement.”

So far, locals have been making reports. There have been numerous reports made to both the York County Sheriff’s Department and the York Police Department.

York Police Chief Ed Tjaden said Wednesday, “The York Police Department does not have any further information to offer about the drones, but we certainly do not advocate intentionally downing or damaging them; there are ordinances regarding the discharge of firearms inside city limits, and also statutes regarding damaging property. So far we have no reports that indicate any laws have been broken, and at this time recommend calm and patience.”

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