Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

June 28, 2021


The U.S. government releases the first report of its kind on what we can't explain in the skies.

Term To Know:

UAP = "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena"
  • The government uses UAP how most of us would use “UFO” – unidentified flying object.
  • This intentionally broad umbrella term references “multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations”: airborne clutter (birds, balloons), natural atmospheric phenomena (ice crystals), classified programs by U.S. entities, foreign adversary systems or a “non-governmental entity.”


  • There’s been no good reporting system for UAPs across the U.S. government.
  • This assessment by the Office of the Director of Nat’l Intelligence looked at 144 reports from U.S. gov’t sources (ex: U.S. Navy) since 2004.
  • Most reports related to “objects that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.”
  • 80 reports included observation from multiple sources (like sight, radar), 11 “near-misses” by pilots, and 18 reports of strange flight patterns.

"UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security."

The U.S. government admits some of the unexplained could rise to the level of a “national security challenge” if it involves “breakthrough or disruptive technology” by a foreign or potential adversary. The report also underscores that sometimes a mystery has a simple explanation – one unusual sighting was identified as a deflated balloon.

The government is working towards gathering better information by developing a more “formalized” process for reporting across agencies (most reports now come from the U.S. Navy, but later reports will include the Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) and more specificity in the reports themselves.

OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

From the Department of Defense

Two different perspectives from either side of the aisle – both from the powerful Senate Intel Committee:

“… The United States must be able to understand and mitigate threats to our pilots, whether they’re from drones or weather balloons or adversary intelligence capabilities. Today’s rather inconclusive report only marks the beginning of efforts to understand and illuminate what is causing these risks to aviation in many areas around the country and world.” Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.)

“There’s a stigma on Capitol Hill. I mean, some of my colleagues are very interested in this topic and some kind of, you know, giggle when you bring it up. But I don’t think we can allow the stigma to keep us from having an answer to a very fundamental question” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla)

by Jenna Lee,