by Iain Boyd
detected on a Navy plane's infrared camera.
Department of Defense/Navy Times
Yet just a few years ago, the Pentagon reportedly shut down another official program that investigated UFO sightings.
The answer to that question is almost certainly no...
Humans' misinterpretation of observations of natural phenomena are as old as time and include examples such as manatees being seen as mermaids and driftwood in a Scottish loch being interpreted as a monster.
more recent and relevant example is the strange luminescent
structure in the sky caused by a SpaceX rocket launch. In these
types of cases, incorrect interpretations occur because people have
incomplete information or misunderstand what they're seeing.
During a military mission, whether in peace or in war, if a pilot or soldier can't identify an object, they have a serious problem:
Fortunately, the military can use advanced technologies to try to identify strange things in the sky.
A UFO represents a gap in situational awareness. At the moment, when a Navy pilot sees something strange during flight, just about the only thing he or she can do is ask other pilots and air traffic control what they saw in that place at that time.
UFO reportings in a year has peaked at more than 8,000. It's not
known how many the military experiences.
Military vehicles - Humvees, battleships, airplanes and satellites alike - are covered in sensors. It's not just passive devices like radio receivers, video cameras and infrared imagers, but active systems like radar, sonar and lidar.
In addition, a military vehicle is rarely alone - vehicles travel in convoys, sail in fleets and fly in formations.
Above them all are
satellites watching from overhead.
bristle with antennas, cameras
and sensors of all kinds.
Drawing a complete
With so many sensors and so much data, though, it is a challenge to merge the information into something useful. However, the military is stepping up its work on autonomy and artificial intelligence.
One possible use of these new technologies could be to combine them to analyze all the many signals as they come in from sensors, separating any observations that it can't identify. In those cases, the system could even assign sensors on nearby vehicles or orbiting satellites to collect additional information in real time.
Then it could assemble an even
more complete picture.
For example, in a famous
experiment by Google scientists, an
advanced image recognition algorithm based on artificial
intelligence was fooled into wrongly identifying a photo of a panda
as a gibbon simply by distorting a small number of the original
In my view, the Navy's new approach to reporting UFO encounters is a good first step. This may eventually lead to a comprehensive, fully integrated approach for object identification involving the fusion of data from many sensors through the application of artificial intelligence and autonomy.
Only then will there be fewer and fewer UFOs in the sky
they won't be unidentified anymore...