Arizona "drone" circles helicopter and zips off over a mountain. 100mph speeds, 14k height ascent, visual testimony from pilots who ran out of gas.

analiennamed

New Member
Do we have any reasonable hypothesis for what type of gear could have been used to accomplish this type of flight?

Source: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZPRTGA4Rv/


i think this is the same story?
https://dronedj.com/2021/11/22/tucson-police-chase-of-mystery-drone-in-feb-mirrored-2016-incident/

highlights:
drone was in the air over an hour until the helicopter ran out of gas chasing it
drone flew circles around the helicopter
drone reached speeds exceeding 100mph
drone flew 14k ft over a mountain to evade helicopter
visual confirmation of a green dot on the flying thing

in the story the person on video suggests its DoD level tech.
how does a controller steer a drone over a mountain?
how does a drone do circles around a helicopter?
how does a drone manage low level and also 14k altitude flight?

relevant reddit thread:

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/UFOs/comments/1bzspik/police_in_tucson_chase_drone_over_an_hour_drone/
 
Some bits of this remind me of airplane pilots chasing Venus and the like. I wonder if there was a drone in the initial encounter, then the follow-up chase locked onto something astronomical?

The "we were circling it and is was circling us, on the other hand, sounds a lot like some parallax, with the helicopter circling a balloon with a light on it...

But none of that seems to account for the whole story. I hope the police shot some video, and that we'll get to see it at some point.
 
Context: I'm a drone builder and racer, have been doing it for years. Some of my information is a little dated, but I know capabilities and limits.

Some of this is absolutely conceivable. Modern high performance racing drones are INCREDIBLY fast and agile. Racers are running at 225+ mph. These are first person control, so someone is 'seeing' out through the camera on it. They are also very very small. About the size of a dictionary.

However, they do not have long flight times. Most can't fly for more than 10 minutes, and an hour or two in the air is not feasible. Camera drones have much longer flight times, but even still, we're talking less than an hour, and are not as fast.

Can you build a drone that flies 100mph and stays in the air for 2 hours? Maybe? But occam's razor really is here. Something circling a helicopter over hte city? Totally feasible. Something that suddenly fly to 17,000 over a mountain nearby and the helicopter couldn't keep up? This is absolutely my skeptical face. Also they have no photos, no video, no nothing?

I blame the absolutely trash quality of the sensationalistic TikTok vid, and the general cluelessness of most LEOs with respect to this sort of tech, but I think the takeaway here is a mix of inexperienced witnesses and someone being a dick with a drone.
 
Continuous counter-clockwise circling of the helicopter? That sounds as if there was an artifact on the left side of the window / radar / whatever. But they said they couldn't see it, and yet they said there was a green light underneath it? Yes, I could believe the first sighting was a drone, but after that they were chasing empty air. Reports of it crossing over Mt. Lemmon, when they said they couldn't see it, means that they've got a lot of 'splainin' to do before there is anything to investigate.
 
There's audio of the chase in the video below. It all started with a near miss.

Some highlights:

[00:00:15.52 --> 00:00:26.80] We just had a near mid-air with a quadcopter. I'd like to do a 360 just to see if it's still flying.

[00:01:27.36 --> 00:01:40.00] Yeah, I got a visual on the quadcopter, it's about a hundred feet above us (...).

[00:05:11.92 --> 00:05:20.96] Traffic off your left-hand side is eight-star helicopter, they're tracking a drone (...)

[00:05:22.48 --> 00:05:29.28] It's a quadcopter and they're able to see it with with their night vision.

[00:06:08.56 --> 00:06:10.68] OK, you said the drone's at 4000 feet?
[00:06:11.44 --> 00:06:24.00] That's what it looks like, I'm at a 3800 and it's just a really dim flashing green light. I can't track it on goggles, so I'm just physically tracking it right now.

[00:07:26.16 --> 00:07:32.00] He's gonna be directly above us. I'm just looking up through the top window here (...)

[00:08:28.88 --> 00:08:33.40] OK, we're climbing 3.8 now.
[00:08:45.60 --> 00:08:52.88] Yeah, he got within about 50 yards of us on departure (...)
[00:08:52.96 --> 00:08:59.72] OK, my partner still got eye on it. We're just gonna try to climb up, so we're just above it.
[00:09:44.72 --> 00:09:48.32] All right, I lost visual with it in the turn, try to reacquire here (...)

[00:09:50.80 --> 00:10:02.12] Still got it, it's still off to our west. We're at 4.4 and he's saying it's like still 500 above us, so I think it's still climbing, probably above 5000 now.

[00:11:23.92 --> 00:11:37.04] Tower air 2, it is directly above us now, and it's probably still 2000 feet above us now, so he's gonna be up over 7000 feet

[00:14:16.24 --> 00:14:43.76] All right, roger that. We're finally up to his altitude, so he's 7600 up here now. He's about a quarter mile off to our west we're trying to get an idea of the size of this thing because it's moving pretty fast (...) it's between us and a mountain.

[00:14:46.00 --> 00:14:55.28] If you like, we can extend east. We can climb up to 9500 and try to get him on the camera and then we can try to track him to point origin.

[00:14:55.28 --> 00:14:59.80] Yeah, he's kind of orbiting around us now.

[00:15:30.24 --> 00:15:55.16] Yeah, he's directly north of us, quarter mile now, maybe 100 feet above us.

[00:16:23.04 --> 00:16:29.76] Negative, my observer caught him through the window, front window.

[00:21:50.56 --> 00:21:55.00] All right, searching on camera.

[00:22:39.28 --> 00:22:50.36] Yeah, he is northwest of us now, coming around in the orbit. He's southwest bound now, and probably 10,000.

[00:24:06.24 --> 00:24:10.80] We're not getting anything on the camera.

[00:24:32.80 --> 00:25:42.44] I'm unable to get a visual and I'm looking down over the city. We're still searching with the camera around here he's probably up above ten five now.

[00:26:24.08 --> 00:26:41.48] He's going straight up now. He's going right over the top of us, so he's changed his orbit drastically. We lost sight of him now, he's directly over the top of us, going back towards dm and probably above 11000.

[00:30:17.44 --> 00:30:57.40] Shot straight up again. He's probably about 12 or 13 000 now. He is east of us by about three quarters of a mile and 2000 above us. Still generally doing counterclockwise orbits.

[00:32:28.56 --> 00:32:38.40] And, that's crazy man to be that far. They don't think it's radio controlled.

[00:32:44.08 --> 00:32:48.16] The night vision's helping him out, yeah.

[00:33:03.76 --> 00:33:09.96] He's not coming up in that camera (...)

[00:34:14.40 --> 00:34:32.44] He's playing around with us now. He's not letting us get a good orbit follow on him. He keeps cutting that orbit in half and then we lose him, and then we try to reacquire. So, every time we come around to 350 degrees, or something like that, he'll cut across the top of our rotor, and then we lose him and so.

[00:37:21.36 --> 00:37:28.48] Now we're trailing about three miles to your six o'clock and we're just standing around here trying to pick him up.

[00:39:52.96 --> 00:40:00.88] We haven't pinned, that's probably about 65 knots right now, that he's moving westbound.

[00:45:07.68 --> 00:45:10.88] All right, that's our visual sighting with him, it's been about 40 minutes. So, you've got to be getting super little in the battery.
[00:45:14.32 --> 00:45:19.28] This would be like no battery I've ever seen. Not with the activity and altitude he's been playing with, but we'll see.

[00:46:29.84 --> 00:46:36.20] Yeah, we're still tracking you with the camera. We're not getting any thermal feedback at all.

[00:50:43.28 --> 00:51:00.12] Unfortunately, we're probably...we might have 15 or 20 minutes left.

[00:52:25.60 --> 00:52:32.12] and my partner just lost him in that cloud somewhere.
[00:52:37.20 --> 00:52:43.44] Yeah, the clouds look to be a little bit lower out here.
[00:52:41.04 -->00:52:50.04] So, if you're a celestial geek, my partner is saying the middle star of Orion's belt is where he last had him

[00:56:33.44 --> 00:56:36.72] Sorry, we couldn't hang longer.
[00:56:37.44 --> 00:56:42.00] No worries, like, he's got atomic battery.
[00:56:40.56 --> 00:56:50.00] Yeah, I was really wanting to see what kind of guidance system that has. That's not being driven by some iPhone somewhere.

[00:57:03.28 --> 00:57:11.76] Now, we'll give it a search here for a few more minutes. See if we can visibly acquire them. We're not seeing them yet.

[01:01:53.04 -->01:02:01.28] Yeah, from our measurements here it looks like you guys tracked it for 40 miles and about 10,000 feet in altitude.

[01:02:01.28 --> 01:02:07.84] Yeah, something special. I was really hoping we could see what that thing was built out of.

[01:02:20.88 --> 01:02:35.64] Yeah, we've taken about eight of those into custody, over the years, and none of them have come close to what that thing's doing. Got a good guidance, come on.
[01:02:43.84 --> 01:02:54.04] And I also come from the military UAV world, and I don't know of any small UAVs with that kind of endurance.


Source: https://youtu.be/YawBzT1sE6E
 
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How are they tracking this thing from a 1/4 mile away? at night? even with night vision?

"No way this thing is radio controlled" - that made me lol.
 
Traffic off your left-hand side is eight-star helicopter, they're tracking a drone (...)

The only reference I can find to this is that his helicopter squadron has a 8 pointed star on their insignia (it used to be more prominent in an older designation)

https://www.airlant.usff.navy.mil/hsm46/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSM-46

"[00:05:22.48 --> 00:05:29.28] It's a quadcopter and they're able to see it with with their night vision."

Would track with them being night vision equipped if they were military.

Only problem is they fly out of Jacksonville FL and this is Arizona
 
Are there any timestamps from the ATC conversation we can get?

Not from the audio, but in the linked article....
Both incidents occurred near DMAFB – a restricted airspace that the February drone returned to repeatedly as it zigzagged away from official aircraft on its tail. Both events ended when the enigmatic UAV involved zipped off to the west of Tucson’s city limits. Both began at roughly the same time: 10:46 p.m. this year, and 10:58 p.m. in 2016
https://dronedj.com/2021/11/22/tucson-police-chase-of-mystery-drone-in-feb-mirrored-2016-incident/
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oh it was 2021 just in time for the ADS-B to have expired
Some news articles have screenshots of the ADSB playback. Havn't found a kml yet.

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https://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/the-drone-that-outran-a-police-helicopter
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https://www.avweb.com/aviation-news/atc-tapes-reveal-capabilities-of-mystery-drone/
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https://www.twz.com/40756/new-detai...ne-that-outran-police-helicopters-over-tucson
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ADSB Track is available here: https://www.radarbox.com/data/registration/N305PD/1532139303

I've created a kml from the log below, although I'm not sure that I have the altitude data correct.

https://www.radarbox.com/data/registration/N305PD/1532139303/log

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Could it actually be A star and not eight star, listening again I think it is A star.
Certainly A-star. The helicopters involved were N305PD callsign "Air 2", depicted below, and a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) helicopter callsign "Troy 164" operating from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM), not necessarily the one in the picture, but of a similar configuration:

1712918827559.png
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A-star capabilities (attached):

Infrared detection system; Digital Moving Map; Tactical Search Light; Electro-Optical/ Infrared (EO/IO) Camera; Night vision goggle-compatible.
 

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The War Zone made a report on the encounter and filed a FOIA, which resulted in a heavily redacted document (attached). It reads:

While departing KDMA via the [redacted] the crew of [redacted] had a near midair collision with a quadcopter like sUAS near Banner South Hospital at [redacted] MSL. The SAM observer BPA [redacted] was the first to see the sUAS pass across the nose within 30-50ft from right to left at the same altitude. During the pass the observer was able to note propellers in a configuration similar to a quadcopter like sUAS system. The pilot AIA [redacted] was talking to ATC as the sUAS passed and requested a 360 degree turn to track the sUAS. ATC approved the request, and the crew regained visual and tracked the sUAS towards KDMA. While enroute to KDMA the sUAS passed by the TEP Powerplant and also made a few orbits over the nearby fuel farm. Once the sUAS reached KDMA it started a loiter pattern on the north side of the base at an altitude between [redacted] MSL. The loiter pattern observed by the pilot appeared to be a GPS hover hold just northeast of the KDMA Heritage hanger [sic] located on the northwest corner of the airfield. The pilot manoeuvred the Astar helicopter 50-75ft below the sUAS and was able to observe propellers reflecting the city light off of them. The pilot noted the sUAS to be a quadcopter like shape and approximately 3-5ft wide with a single green blinking green LED light on the bottom. The green LED light was the at [sic] a nanometer wavelength that was filtered out by the crew’s NVGs, so an unaided visual track was required. [redacted]. At approximately [redacted] northwest of Marana Airport the sUAS climbed into the clouds and visual contact was lost by [redacted] in an area between Marana Airport and Silver Bell Mine. The crew of [redacted] descended to a lower altitude and conducted a search for a possible recovery crew within the area of the last visual sighting. The search area extended from [redacted] northwest of Marana Airport to just west of Silver Bell Mine. The crew of [redacted] searched for approximately thirty minutes and was unable to find any personnel or vehicles parked in the area.
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source: https://www.twz.com/42404/tucson-my...g-to-border-patrol-helicopter-aircrews-emails
 

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The War Zone made another report, publishing the result of the FOIA they filed to the TPD (Tucson Police Department). The result was a document containing the account from the crew of the police helicopter callsign "Air 2" - N305PD.

TPD case number 2102090253:
1712924140091.png
source: https://www.twz.com/41223/tucson-mystery-drone-was-not-like-any-other-police-had-ever-encountered

***NO VIDEO RECORDING***
On 02/09/2021, while assigned to the Air Support Unit as a Tactical Flight Officer, I was working with Command. We had just been cleared from a call when who was acting as Pilot in advised me that a Custom's Air and Marine helicopter that had just taken off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base had a near miss with an Unmanned Aircraft System just west of the base. We responded to the area to assist in attempting to locate the aircraft and try to see where it lands and coordinate a response from patrol units to try and make contact with the operator. We began orbiting the tank farm, I was monitoring the appropriate air traffic control frequency in order to get updates from the CBP helicopter on the location of the aircraft. After the first orbit between the fuel tanks and DMAFB I was able to visually acquire the aircraft. It had a single green position light on the underbody, I did not observe any strobes or other position lights. I attempted to track it utilizing my night vision goggles but I was not able to observe the lone position light that I had seen, even when looking at the correct position in space, also using goggles I was not able to see the actual craft in order to try and get an estimate of its size. It appeared to be a quarter mile away from us and about 500 feet above us. During our orbits it began to maneuver, as such I attempted to maintain visual of the UAS. I would provide updates on the location to who relayed it to air traffic control and the CBP helicopter, Troy 164.

It maneuvered all over the city, once we were over the Foothills we were up at about 10,000 feet, while the UAS was up at about 10,500-11,000 feet. It then began to maneuver in a manner to hamper our ability to track it visually. Several times I lost visual of the aircraft but was able to reacquire it. It began to travel west in excess of 65 knots. We began to follow it as it continued northwest. Several times it appeared to move in an erratic pattern as if the signal with its home station was getting weaker, but then it would stabilize and continue on its flight path. Due to fuel considerations we had to break off and return to the airport. I last observed it continuing northwest at an altitude in excess of 12,000 feet and at a speed of over 65 knots. We relayed the last known position to Troy 164 who was going to attempt to track it further. Prior to landing Troy 164 advised that they were not able to reacquire the UAS.
Refer to radar track for speed and altitude details for further information. A controller at Tucson Airport tower advised us that they made the appropriate notifications to federal authorities. Based on the distances covered, altitudes observed and time aloft this did not appear to be any off the shelf UAS. Refer to supplement for further details.
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Supplement Notes
On the listed date I was working with as the crew of Air 2. I was operating as the pilot. At approximately 2230hrs I was asked by DMAFB control tower to switch back to Tucson ATC control tower to assist with a near mid air collision between a Customs border patrol helicopter and an unmanned aircraft system. I contacted Tucson tower and was advised of the incident, at this point we were only 2 miles north of the incident location and offered to assist in any way possible. ATC advised that the CBP helicopter(Troy 164) was on the frequency and was requesting our assistance with tracking the uas. I began coordination between both control towers and both helicopter aircraft, to work together in acquiring the uas and a plan to track it. Tucson Tower was extremely helpful in giving us the frequency for open communication while giving us radar coverage and separation from other aircraft in and around the area. Troy 164 and I agreed once Air 2 had visual of the uas that they would widen out and attempt to video the uas. [redacted] and I acquired the uas and began to give updated real time position, direction and altitude changes. We had hoped that the uas would exhaust its battery reserves and be forced to land soon, and no longer create a dangerous hazard to all aircraft. Unfortunately this was not the case. The uas was very sophisticated/specialized and able to perform like no other uas I have observed. The uas began flying orbits around our aircraft as we tracked it. Our track took us up to an altitude of 12,000ft (the uas was in excess of 14,000ft), its speed at times was well in excess of 100mph, and its flight path was obvious that the controller had clear sight of both the helicopters tracking it by the way it would orbit us and abruptly fly behind us and attempt to avoid our visual contact. (please refer to the audio and data tracking log of Tucson ATC).

For over an hour we continuously tracked the uas across the city and eventually out of the city. The uas was able to fly into 40mph headwinds and still maintain 100mph airspeeds. During the extended surveillance the uas never displayed signs of reduced power or weakening power supply. It clearly was not a store bought phone controlled uas. Although we could not determine its exact size or characteristics we primarily tracked it by a single green non blinking light illuminating from the craft. Our surveillance took us north across the city and over the top of Mount Lemmon, eventually winding west/northwest past Avra valley airport, and at this time due to our need to refuel, I advised Troy164 and ATC that we needed to disengage and return to the airport to refuel. Troy 164 attempted to require the uas but was unable as the uas was flying in and out of the cloud base near 12,000ft. It is unknown what the intentions of the sophisticated uas were during its time near the Air Force Base, or how far away its origination/destination spot was. It was quite clear though that this was not like any other uas that we have experienced. We tracked the uas visually aided and unaided with NVG's. Subsequent to landing I contacted our Tucson Tower atc to thank them for the outstanding job the did assisting with this incident, they advised that they completed the associated paperwork and notified the federal agencies that will be interested in this incident.
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With regards to the long flight time and battery times, gas powered drones are a thing that exists.

My guess would be a commercial gas powered drone built for crop-dusting or aerial photography, being taken for a joy-ride. The fact this is at night, which makes range estimation difficult, the actual size and configuration estimates may be a bit off.
 
I was struck by the resemblance between
1712916105840.png
and the track of the plane chasing the "rubber duck" UFO (https://www.metabunk.org/threads/dhs-rubber-duck-footage.12054/)
(Mick video mentioning the orbits here:
Source: https://youtu.be/y5Q82LsMPjQ?t=782
)

The loops of the helicopter in the current cases are easier to see -- possibly a helicopter can do tighter loops not having to keep airspeed up, perhaps the data is worse in the rubber duck case (Mick refers to it as "not very good"). And there is going to similarity on orbiting something small and slow moving like a drone/balloon. But it did leave me wondering if it were possible to extract ground speed of the thing being orbited from the track of the orbits moving across the ground? If so, it could be compared to wind direction/speed to determine if the target was floating along or under power.

(Wind for the Tucson Int. Airport, which I assume is ground level but pilots correct me if that's a bad assumption, is around 5-7 mph out of the SSE to SE during the time in question. Not the direction the orbits are tracking -- but the helicopter seems to be around 10-11,000 feet during what I am taking to be the orbits, and kite people don;t care about wind that high, so I don't know how to look it up!)

Capture.JPG
Source for wind graph: https://www.wunderground.com/history/daily/us/az/tucson/KTUS/date/2021-2-9
 
I'm a bit confused with the information, at some points the light is described as blinking and at some points it's described as non-blinking.

it's just a really dim flashing green light.
It had a single green position light on the underbody, I did not observe any strobes or other position lights.
(position light would imply non-blinking, rather than calling it a strobe)
single green blinking green LED light
single green non blinking light

And at some points they say it can't be seen with goggles and at some points they say they saw it with goggles.
I can't track it on goggles, so I'm just physically tracking it right now.
The night vision's helping him out, yeah
I attempted to track it utilizing my night vision goggles but I was not able to observe the lone position light that I had seen, even when looking at the correct position in space, also using goggles I was not able to see the actual craft in order to try and get an estimate of its size
We tracked the uas visually aided and unaided with NVG's
(I assume this last quote means they at some point tracked it with the aid of the NVG's, though maybe it's a weird way of saying "aided by our eyes and not aided by NVG")

The night vision I could understand if it was just one particular instance it didn't quite work while they actually were able to track it with night vision, but the light alternating between blinking and non-blinking and throws a wrench in what to believe from these reports.

I'm also not sure what's the activity of the second helicopter in this situation,
and its flight path was obvious that the controller had clear sight of both the helicopters tracking it by the way it would orbit us and abruptly fly behind us and attempt to avoid our visual contact.

This makes it sound like they were both working together to track it, is there any info on the fly path of the second helicopter? I haven't heard the 1-hour radio transmission, but I was under the impression that most of the tracking and chasing was being done by just one helicopter. It being tracked by two helicopters could reduce the potential explanations of the first helicopter just getting confused by a different high-altitude object once they started saying the object was at around 14k feet and moving through clouds.
 
I'm a bit confused with the information,
The observer from the A-Star border patrol helicopter "Troy 164" saw the drone first with his naked eyes at 30ft to 50ft away, during take-off from DM air base. He judged it to be a quadcopter, as the drone went past in front of the helicopter. The pilot of the A-star requested a 360 turn to regain visual contact. The pilot positioned the helicopter 50ft to 75ft below the drone and was able to observe propellers reflecting the light of the city. He noted it was a quadcopter 3ft to 5ft wide with a single blinking green light underneath. None of the crew on the A-star could see the drone through their NVGs.

The TPD helicopter "Air 2" joined the chase several minutes later. The TFO saw the light with his naked eyes from a quarter mile away and 500ft below, and noted a single position green light underneath, no strobes or other position lights. He was unable to see the drone, or the light, using the goggles. The pilot stated the drone had a non blinking single green light, and that it was not possible to use the NVGs.

In summary:
  • Troy 164 - Observer - Quadcopter (30ft to 50ft away), naked eyes only;
  • Troy 164 - Pilot - Quadcopter, 3ft to 5ft wide (50ft to 75ft above them), single blinking green light underneath, naked eyes only;
  • Air 2 - TFO - Single position green light underneath (over a quarter mile away and 500ft altitude difference), naked eyes only;
  • Air 2 - Pilot - Non blinking green light, naked eyes only.
"The night vision's helping him out, yeah" <- This is a reference to the drone operator being able to track the helicopters. As it was a nocturnal chase, then the crew concluded the drone was fitted with a FLIR/IR system.

"We tracked the uas visually aided and unaided with NVG's" <- It means they couldn't use their pods to track the drone, nor their goggles, thus they switched to Mk.1 unaided eyeballs.

I'm also not sure what's the activity of the second helicopter in this situation,
The TPD crew explained their mission was to gain visual on the drone, track it simultaneously, wait for its power source to deplete, and call law enforcement to apprehend the operator in case anyone tried to retrieve the drone (or land and carry out the arrest themselves). But one helicopter went back to base for refuelling, whilst the other gave up the pursuit and searched for a ground operator nearby instead.

is there any info on the fly path of the second helicopter?
The second helicopter tail number was redacted. War Zone suggests Troy 164 tail number was N790AM.
 
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"We tracked the uas visually aided and unaided with NVG's" <- It means they couldn't use their pods to track the drone, nor their goggles, thus they switched to Mk.1 unaided eyeballs.
It reads to me like they were able to use both given the use of "and"
 
The 100mph Speed wasn't measured with an instrument, the object couldn't be tracked with NVG. The object was followed by helicopters for about an hour, based on the flight path in this thread they only move at most 15 miles over the ground (that's just my eyes and google maps, , at one point the pilot describes the object as doing "continuous counter clockwise orbits" but that also describes the motion of the helicopter judging by the flight path data.

I agree with JMartr that it seems likely the object was much slower moving than estimated and that there were some parallax issues causing confusion.
 
The 100mph Speed wasn't measured with an instrument, the object couldn't be tracked with NVG. The object was followed by helicopters for about an hour, based on the flight path in this thread they only move at most 15 miles over the ground
Air 2 at times was doing close to 100 mph, that's where the 100 mph comes from, but during the chase they mention 65 knots (75 mph), which coincides with the average speed Air 2 was doing along the straight path. If you measure Air 2 track journey, not the net distance over ground, it was a total of +130 miles in 101 minutes, but only ~60 miles and ~55 minutes are related to the chase (from about 22:30 local time until they gave up at around 23:25, as highlighted in the map below), thus they say the drone was doing 75 mph on average and peaked to 100 mph at times, despite headwinds of 40 mph.

1713007121949.png
 
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Air 2 at times was doing close to 100 mph, that's where the 100 mph comes from, but during the chase they mention 65 knots (75 mph), which coincides with the average speed Air 2 was doing along the straight path. If you measure Air 2 track journey, not the net distance over ground, it was a total of ~130 miles in 101 minutes, but only ~60 miles and ~55 minutes are related to the chase (from about 22:30 local time until they gave up at around 23:25, as highlighted in the map below), thus they say the drone was doing 75 mph on average and peaked to 100 mph at times, despite headwinds of 40 mph.

1713007121949.png
So the speed is entirely based on the idea that the object was matching the speed of the helicopters? My assumption is the long straight portion you highlighted was a direct flight back to the airport of origin (possibly Marana regional airport?) and so wouldn't be included in the chase. I'm not versed in analysing flight data though so I'll concede I could be reading it wrong.
 
My assumption is the long straight portion you highlighted was a direct flight back to the airport of origin
No, their base is marked at the bottom of the map. After the loops, they chased the light towards Marana, turned around and returned to refuel. I created an animation to show their adventure.

Attach files
 
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No, their base is marked at the bottom of the map. After the loops, they chased the drone towards Marana, turned around and returned to refuel. I created an animation to show their adventure.

Attach files
My bad, I've been squinting at those maps trying to figure out what was going on. I'll have to look into how you can read the data directly to avoid such embarrassing mistakes in the future
 
Maybe, I still think the statement is very unclear.
Their language is a bit loose in the audio and reports, but if read in context, it becomes clear neither crew was able to use the goggles to spot the drone.

The TPD report states that the drone LED was invisible to the NVGs:

The green LED light was at a nanometer wavelength that was filtered out by the crew’s NVGs, so an unaided visual track was required.
Content from External Source

This is due to a visible light filter attached to the NVGs, in order to prevent cockpit lights from reducing their effectiveness. The FAA specifies the filters to be used (attached):

Current NVGs are sensitive to light with wavelengths between approximately 450 nanometers (nm) and 920 nm. This range overlaps the visible spectrum of light (approximately 390 nm to 700 nm). If the visible light in the cockpit is not effectively filtered by the NVGs, the automatic gain control of the NVGs will be activated and will potentially reduce the visual acuity of the pilot.

As a result, filters are installed on the objective lenses of the NVGs.
NVG filters currently in use include Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A filters restrict wavelengths below 625 nm from being viewed by the NVG, allowing the use of blue, green, and yellow lighting to be used in the cockpit. Class B filters restrict lighting with wavelengths below 665 nm from being viewed by NVG, allowing the use of some red lighting in cockpit displays. Class C filters, also known as “leaky green” filters, also restrict light wavelengths below 665 nm, with the exception of a limited amount of green for a heads up display.
Content from External Source
source: https://web.archive.org/web/2022012...eering/engineering_briefs/media/eb-98-NVG.pdf
 

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Their language is a bit loose in the audio and reports, but if read in context, it becomes clear neither crew was able to use the goggles to spot the drone.

The TPD report states that the drone LED was invisible to the NVGs:

The green LED light was at a nanometer wavelength that was filtered out by the crew’s NVGs, so an unaided visual track was required.
Content from External Source

This is due to a visible light filter attached to the NVGs, in order to prevent cockpit lights from reducing their effectiveness. The FAA specifies the filters to be used (attached):

Current NVGs are sensitive to light with wavelengths between approximately 450 nanometers (nm) and 920 nm. This range overlaps the visible spectrum of light (approximately 390 nm to 700 nm). If the visible light in the cockpit is not effectively filtered by the NVGs, the automatic gain control of the NVGs will be activated and will potentially reduce the visual acuity of the pilot.

As a result, filters are installed on the objective lenses of the NVGs.
NVG filters currently in use include Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A filters restrict wavelengths below 625 nm from being viewed by the NVG, allowing the use of blue, green, and yellow lighting to be used in the cockpit. Class B filters restrict lighting with wavelengths below 665 nm from being viewed by NVG, allowing the use of some red lighting in cockpit displays. Class C filters, also known as “leaky green” filters, also restrict light wavelengths below 665 nm, with the exception of a limited amount of green for a heads up display.
Content from External Source
source: https://web.archive.org/web/2022012...eering/engineering_briefs/media/eb-98-NVG.pdf
Sure the LED might not show up on the NVGs but the drone itself might otherwise how do you know you are even looking at anything.

The transcript states

[00:05:22.48 --> 00:05:29.28] It's a quadcopter and they're able to see it with with their night vision.
 
This may have started as a drone chase, but I suspect that the 100mph chase towards the west was chasing a different target. Mars was up there, towards the west, and they might have been chasing that. Towards the end of the chase they said they saw the target near the central star of Orion's Belt. That would be in a southerly direction, and perhaps they were looking at Sirius at the very end.
 
There's audio of the chase in the video below. It all started with a near miss.

Some highlights:

[00:00:15.52 --> 00:00:26.80] We just had a near mid-air with a quadcopter. I'd like to do a 360 just to see if it's still flying.

[00:01:27.36 --> 00:01:40.00] Yeah, I got a visual on the quadcopter, it's about a hundred feet above us (...).

[00:05:11.92 --> 00:05:20.96] Traffic off your left-hand side is eight-star helicopter, they're tracking a drone (...)

[00:05:22.48 --> 00:05:29.28] It's a quadcopter and they're able to see it with with their night vision.

[00:06:08.56 --> 00:06:10.68] OK, you said the drone's at 4000 feet?
[00:06:11.44 --> 00:06:24.00] That's what it looks like, I'm at a 3800 and it's just a really dim flashing green light. I can't track it on goggles, so I'm just physically tracking it right now.

[00:07:26.16 --> 00:07:32.00] He's gonna be directly above us. I'm just looking up through the top window here (...)

[00:08:28.88 --> 00:08:33.40] OK, we're climbing 3.8 now.
[00:08:45.60 --> 00:08:52.88] Yeah, he got within about 50 yards of us on departure (...)
[00:08:52.96 --> 00:08:59.72] OK, my partner still got eye on it. We're just gonna try to climb up, so we're just above it.
[00:09:44.72 --> 00:09:48.32] All right, I lost visual with it in the turn, try to reacquire here (...)

[00:09:50.80 --> 00:10:02.12] Still got it, it's still off to our west. We're at 4.4 and he's saying it's like still 500 above us, so I think it's still climbing, probably above 5000 now.

[00:11:23.92 --> 00:11:37.04] Tower air 2, it is directly above us now, and it's probably still 2000 feet above us now, so he's gonna be up over 7000 feet

[00:14:16.24 --> 00:14:43.76] All right, roger that. We're finally up to his altitude, so he's 7600 up here now. He's about a quarter mile off to our west we're trying to get an idea of the size of this thing because it's moving pretty fast (...) it's between us and a mountain.

[00:14:46.00 --> 00:14:55.28] If you like, we can extend east. We can climb up to 9500 and try to get him on the camera and then we can try to track him to point origin.

[00:14:55.28 --> 00:14:59.80] Yeah, he's kind of orbiting around us now.

[00:15:30.24 --> 00:15:55.16] Yeah, he's directly north of us, quarter mile now, maybe 100 feet above us.

[00:16:23.04 --> 00:16:29.76] Negative, my observer caught him through the window, front window.

[00:21:50.56 --> 00:21:55.00] All right, searching on camera.

[00:22:39.28 --> 00:22:50.36] Yeah, he is northwest of us now, coming around in the orbit. He's southwest bound now, and probably 10,000.

[00:24:06.24 --> 00:24:10.80] We're not getting anything on the camera.

[00:24:32.80 --> 00:25:42.44] I'm unable to get a visual and I'm looking down over the city. We're still searching with the camera around here he's probably up above ten five now.

[00:26:24.08 --> 00:26:41.48] He's going straight up now. He's going right over the top of us, so he's changed his orbit drastically. We lost sight of him now, he's directly over the top of us, going back towards dm and probably above 11000.

[00:30:17.44 --> 00:30:57.40] Shot straight up again. He's probably about 12 or 13 000 now. He is east of us by about three quarters of a mile and 2000 above us. Still generally doing counterclockwise orbits.

[00:32:28.56 --> 00:32:38.40] And, that's crazy man to be that far. They don't think it's radio controlled.

[00:32:44.08 --> 00:32:48.16] The night vision's helping him out, yeah.

[00:33:03.76 --> 00:33:09.96] He's not coming up in that camera (...)

[00:34:14.40 --> 00:34:32.44] He's playing around with us now. He's not letting us get a good orbit follow on him. He keeps cutting that orbit in half and then we lose him, and then we try to reacquire. So, every time we come around to 350 degrees, or something like that, he'll cut across the top of our rotor, and then we lose him and so.

[00:37:21.36 --> 00:37:28.48] Now we're trailing about three miles to your six o'clock and we're just standing around here trying to pick him up.

[00:39:52.96 --> 00:40:00.88] We haven't pinned, that's probably about 65 knots right now, that he's moving westbound.

[00:45:07.68 --> 00:45:10.88] All right, that's our visual sighting with him, it's been about 40 minutes. So, you've got to be getting super little in the battery.
[00:45:14.32 --> 00:45:19.28] This would be like no battery I've ever seen. Not with the activity and altitude he's been playing with, but we'll see.

[00:46:29.84 --> 00:46:36.20] Yeah, we're still tracking you with the camera. We're not getting any thermal feedback at all.

[00:50:43.28 --> 00:51:00.12] Unfortunately, we're probably...we might have 15 or 20 minutes left.

[00:52:25.60 --> 00:52:32.12] and my partner just lost him in that cloud somewhere.
[00:52:37.20 --> 00:52:43.44] Yeah, the clouds look to be a little bit lower out here.
[00:52:41.04 -->00:52:50.04] So, if you're a celestial geek, my partner is saying the middle star of Orion's belt is where he last had him

[00:56:33.44 --> 00:56:36.72] Sorry, we couldn't hang longer.
[00:56:37.44 --> 00:56:42.00] No worries, like, he's got atomic battery.
[00:56:40.56 --> 00:56:50.00] Yeah, I was really wanting to see what kind of guidance system that has. That's not being driven by some iPhone somewhere.

[00:57:03.28 --> 00:57:11.76] Now, we'll give it a search here for a few more minutes. See if we can visibly acquire them. We're not seeing them yet.

[01:01:53.04 -->01:02:01.28] Yeah, from our measurements here it looks like you guys tracked it for 40 miles and about 10,000 feet in altitude.

[01:02:01.28 --> 01:02:07.84] Yeah, something special. I was really hoping we could see what that thing was built out of.

[01:02:20.88 --> 01:02:35.64] Yeah, we've taken about eight of those into custody, over the years, and none of them have come close to what that thing's doing. Got a good guidance, come on.
[01:02:43.84 --> 01:02:54.04] And I also come from the military UAV world, and I don't know of any small UAVs with that kind of endurance.


Source: https://youtu.be/YawBzT1sE6E

Initial impressions:

They keep climbing but the object also keeps climbing...

They see it through the top window.

They complain that it's playing around with them...

He's playing around with us now. He's not letting us get a good orbit follow on him. He keeps cutting that orbit in half and then we lose him, and then we try to reacquire. So, every time we come around to 350 degrees, or something like that, he'll cut across the top of our rotor, and then we lose him and so.

They have to give up the chase because they've run out of endurance while the thing is still going strong.

This sounds like a classic chase of an astronomical body or more likely several different astronomical bodies. So far I don't see anything that's not consistent with that. The only thing that's missing is the phrase "playing cat and mouse."

[00:52:41.04 -->00:52:50.04] So, if you're a celestial geek, my partner is saying the middle star of Orion's belt is where he last had him

In Orion? So how is it above them, whether it's an astronomical body or not? Orion's belt was at 22 degrees above the horizon.

Answer: It's that old ambiguous description again. At that moment it was not directly above them. It was at a higher altitude.

See: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/ufos-hovering-over-air-force-one-at-lax-airport.13295/#post-307916


[00:26:24.08 --> 00:26:41.48] He's going straight up now. He's going right over the top of us, so he's changed his orbit drastically. We lost sight of him now, he's directly over the top of us, going back towards dm and probably above 11000.

Maybe switching attention from one astronomical body to another when they lose sight and reacquire?

[00:15:30.24 --> 00:15:55.16] Yeah, he's directly north of us, quarter mile now, maybe 100 feet above us.

[00:16:23.04 --> 00:16:29.76] Negative, my observer caught him through the window, front window.
Are they really looking at the same thing?
 
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Mars was up there
"Air 2" was looking for a positional green light and following "Troy 164" at a safe distance. "Troy 164" was leading the chase and looking for a flashing green light.

Towards the end of the chase they said they saw the target near the central star of Orion's Belt
The green light kept a higher altitude for most of the chase, thus when "Air 2" TFO used Orion's belt as a reference it was because the light was perceived to move to that part of the sky. They reacquired it a minute later just before it disappeared in the clouds.
 
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00:06:08.56 --> 00:06:10.68] OK, you said the drone's at 4000 feet?
[00:06:11.44 --> 00:06:24.00] That's what it looks like, I'm at a 3800 and it's just a really dim flashing green light. I can't track it on goggles, so I'm just physically tracking it right now.

Is the light green or are the top windows tinted?
 
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