Screenshot of a drone over northern York

This frame pulled from a video by Eric J. Eckert shows a drone flying over the north side of York around 10 p.m. Monday night.

YORK – There have been mysterious drone sightings in York County, with the most recent being seen by YNT staff Monday night over the York area.

YNT staff member, Eric Eckert, videoed one of these drones in the York area, which was migrating to the north. 

Eckert began receiving calls Monday evening from individuals about the sightings, with one call including that there were about 20 drones over McCool Junction.

Eckert, who lives in the Arbor Court/Arbor Drive area, said he went outside and when looking to the north saw one drone that he estimates was likely between the area of the fairgrounds and Highway 34.

“I got a longer zoom lens and took the video,” Eckert explained. “It's pretty shaky due to how far away the drone was. At that point, I headed to the area of the softball complex to avoid light pollution. When I was there, a friend called to say there were a bunch over Division Avenue. I headed in that direction but they were gone. I proceeded north of York about two miles and saw two more. Later, I saw two headed west of York and I followed until they turned around and went back east over York which is when I lost them. Over the course of it all, I saw at least four – two were flying together and two were flying by themselves.”

The York County Sheriff’s Department and the York Police Department received numerous calls about drones Monday night. The police department received reports at 7 p.m., over Duke Drive; at 8:09 p.m., over Quail Cove Road; at 9:12 p.m., over East Eighth Street; and at 10:08 p.m., over East David Drive. These calls were documented in the county’s communication report for the day.

Three sightings had earlier been reported to the York County Sheriff’s Department, including last Saturday in the Benedict area, according to York County Sheriff’s Lt. Josh Gillespie. Calls about suspicious activity regarding the drones were also received Monday, from the Benedict, York and Bradshaw areas – starting at 7:46 p.m. and lasting through 8:16 p.m.

Kerri Pankratz, also a staff member of the York News-Times, saw three of the drones over Henderson at approximately 1:30 a.m., Tuesday morning. She, like Eckert, commented on how the drones were silent – which is not typical of drones in general.

There had been numerous reports of mysterious drone sightings in several locations in Colorado and southern Nebraska in the last two weeks . . . and now York County has joined the list.

The sightings had primarily been reported in southwest Nebraska but the reports here indicate they are moving more in in the eastern direction.

Drones, flying singularly or in formations of six to 12, have been spotted in a variety of places. The drones being reported are larger than what typical hobbyists utilize and ag producers would not be using theirs at this time of year (or at nighttime, in the dark), investigators have said.

There has been a lot of speculation about who is behind the drones – so far, no one has claimed responsibility and no one has been found to be in operation of them.

On Sunday, Grand Island police officers spotted the drones flying in town. And the Hastings 911 Emergency Call Center received a call from Minneapolis Aircraft Control saying a pilot spotted five to six drones flying two miles west of Hastings.

There have been numerous reports that drones were flying in restricted air space due to proximity to airports.

Most reports, according to law enforcement, are that these are large, commercial-style drones that would require a license to operate.

The actual size of the aircrafts are unknown at this time.

Lt. Gillespie said their department – along with other law enforcement agencies -- do not know who the drones belong to, why they are being flown where they are or what the intent may be.

“There are a lot of speculations out there,” Lt. Gillespie said. “Right now, just no one knows.”

If anyone sees this type of drone activity at night, they may contact the York Sheriff's Department (402-362-4927) or the York Police Department (402-363-2640) with information.

The FAA released a statement Monday afternoon regarding the drone situation:

We take every drone-sighting report seriously. Multiple FAA divisions are working closely with federal, state and local stakeholders to determine whether the reported sightings in Colorado and Nebraska are drones and, if so, who is operating them and for what reason. Earlier today, various agencies met and shared information about how to effectively collaborate.

The FAA has taken a number of actions:

• Contacted FAA UAS test sites, drone companies, and companies that are authorized to operate drones in these areas. We have not determined the source of the reported drone flights.

• Contacted General Aviation airports in the affected counties to ensure they are aware of the sightings; to ask pilots to be cautious and to report sightings; and to report any people they see operating drones.

• Working with federal and local law enforcement and national security partners to discuss ways to identify who may be operating these aircraft. We will continue to collaborate closely with our partners at the federal, state and local levels on our identification efforts.

On Tuesday afternoon, Congressman Adrian Smith released a statement about the sightings in Nebraska: “I have reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about finding the source of these 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 appreciate the work of federal, state, and local officials to address these concerns and encourage Nebraskans to promptly contact local law enforcement with detailed accounts of confirmed future sightings.”

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Aviation Administration, released the following statement Tuesday after speaking with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson regarding the recent sightings of unidentified unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, in Nebraska: “Nebraskans are rightly concerned about the recent drone activity. This morning, I spoke with FAA Administrator Dickson directly who informed me that, as of now, there are still no answers about who is using these drones. Yesterday, the FAA, FBI, the Nebraska State Patrol, and local law enforcement officials from Nebraska and Colorado 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 any drone sightings to law enforcement. I will continue to share information with the public as it becomes available.”

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