Staff and wire

The Nebraska State Patrol issued a statement Wednesday on Facebook encouraging people to report sightings of drone clusters on the Nebraska Information Analysis Center’s Suspicious Activity Reporting Site.

NSP is asking that cluster sightings of four or more drones be reported at https://sars.nebraska.gov/.

NSP advised helpful information includes location of the reporting party, general direction and movement from the location and the direction of travel. Descriptions such as sound, light configuration, estimated size, shape and sound are also helpful. Addition details such as flight behavior, duration of observation and how long the UAS is in the air are also valuable information.

In the statement, NSP also asked the public to look for potential control vehicles — such as SUVs, vans or trailers — and personnel. The statement advised possible control vehicles may have antenna.

Eyewitnesses have reported drones near Hastings west of the Hastings Municipal Airport every evening since Sunday. The drones were seen in a line of about a dozen with red and green lights.

The Clay County Emergency Management also made a post on Facebook Wednesday, directing people to the Suspicious Activity Reporting Site. The post said residents can report suspicious activity to the county’s non-emergency number. Potential callers are asked to limit calls to unusual activity, however, because the dispatch center is manned by one person who takes emergency calls and cooks and feeds dinner for prisoners at the Clay County Jail.

The post provided recent examples of a helicopter landing in Harvard and a drone on the ground as unusual activity.

“Unnecessary leads confuse the view of the case and take extra time and staff to try and prove them, to find out they were an errant report,” the post said. “Using common sense is a good marker. They know we have drones in our county. Do I need to call? Nope!”

Another post from Clay County Emergency Management asked people to follow the posted speed limits if they are “drone chasing.”

Meanwhile, a Colorado sheriff on Wednesday rescinded his previous call for people to be on the lookout for a “command vehicle” that may be operating mysterious groups of drones spotted in recent weeks over northeastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

That request for public assistance “is no longer pertinent or relevant,” the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook.

However, a person who was at Monday’s closed-door meeting between law enforcement and government officials attended by Sheriff Thomas Elliott said authorities never were looking for such a vehicle.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the mysterious nighttime flights of groups of six to 10 drones in grid-like patterns since December, which prompted the Monday meeting in northeastern Colorado.

The sheriff’s original statement said a task force had been organized to investigate the flights, and it was asking for the public’s assistance in finding the command vehicle operating the drones.

The statement said the vehicle could be a closed-box trailer with antennas or a large van that seems out of place.

On Wednesday, another person who attended that meeting said no such call for public assistance was discussed.

“The working group was never looking for a command vehicle as described in the recent social media post,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the person didn’t want to publicly contradict the sheriff’s statement.

Wednesday’s updated Facebook post didn’t explain why the information provided previously about the command vehicle no longer was relevant.

Elliott was traveling to a conference and unavailable to comment, said Phillips County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Assistant Kelley Sullivan.

She said the sheriff was trying to be helpful with his original post by relaying what he believed he had heard in the meeting. The sheriff asked her to post the update Wednesday following a query for more information about the command vehicle from The Associated Press.

Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents a swath of the territory in northeastern Colorado where the drones have been spotted, defended the efforts of Elliott and other officials to respond to citizens’ concerns.

“We are worried about people invading our privacy,” Sonnenberg said.

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