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There’s been no shortage of mundane official explanations for UFO sightings over the years, perhaps best encapsulated in the movie Men in Black when Tommy Lee Jones’ character Agent K resets witnesses’ memories with the statement “swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.”

But in recent times, advances in drone technology have meant that seeing a UFO might literally have been an actual sighting of a ‘flying ship’ – just one with a very human origin. No longer are sightings likely just a benign party balloon or Chinese lantern floating on the wind – instead our skies are filled with drone tech, from hobbyists’ quadcopters to million-dollar military surveillance craft.

And we’ve moved beyond just simple, single drones: now we have autonomous swarms of drones that no doubt could fool many of us into thinking we are seeing something extraordinary in the sky. Just like murmurations of starlings can sometimes look like a bizarre organism flying above us, so too can swarms of drones – except drone swarms can be configured to look like any object that can be 3D mapped, and can transform between those shapes on the fly (literally).

Imagine, now, this type of drone swarm miniaturised after another century or two of technological progress, and perhaps we might begin to understand the ways in which an advanced alien craft might not be anything like the archetypal ‘flying saucer’ (although it could if it wanted to be…).

But does it necessarily have to be ‘alien’? The U.S. military appears to have started down the path to using drone swarms as fake objects in the sky, as part of its recently revealed NEMESIS program, reported on at The Drive’s War Zone blog.

While the exact components of the NEMESIS system remain unknown, there are some hints about what types of decoys and swarms could make up such a system. In a 2017 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) white paper titled “Winning in the Gray Zone: Using Electromagnetic Warfare to Regain Escalation Dominance,” authors Bryan Clark, Mark Gunzinger, and Jesse Sloman described the various elements that made up EW ecosystems then in development, such as NEMESIS and DARPA’s System of System Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE).

The document described swarms of expendable unmanned aerial systems that “incorporate cognitive processing and coordinate their actions through communication networks,” meaning they can share data in real-time and operate semi-autonomously to jam an adversary’s sensors, act as or release decoys, gather targeting information, and detect and map air defense networks. Launching waves of these UAVs could extend U.S. forces’ sensor networks, confuse or obscure enemy defenses, provide a resilient communications network, coordinate and assign targets for weapons salvos, and even “provide targets to hypersonic weapons that have a very short time-of-flight,” the paper explained.

So where does that leave us with modern UFO sightings? How many of the ‘unexplaineds’ might be explainable via drone swarm tech? Many of the supposed identifiers of a ‘real’ UFO – seemingly impossible changes in direction, malleable/transforming shape, the ability to ‘disappear’ in virtually an instant – all of these things are possible with a drone swarm. And, it should be noted, they can also return a radar ‘hit’:

Aside from providing fire and communications support, the NEMESIS system was said to be capable of creating viable false targets that would “increase the number of potential targets” an adversary would have to engage. These false targets would “mimic the RF emissions and radar returns of real platforms” and include infrared decoys and “concepts and capabilities to simulate the computer network activity of deployed forces.”

…In doing so, it also allows for these swarms and the various dissimilar nodes that can make up the NEMESIS system at any given time to create fleets of ships and aircraft that aren’t really there across a huge area as well as execute more mundane tasks, such as jamming individual enemy emitters or working as sacrificial decoys for enemy weapons themselves.

I’m certainly not saying this is the explanation for all mysterious sightings – but it is a useful thought exercise into how seemingly ‘impossible’ sightings can, even with fairly small changes in technology, become rather mundane very quickly. And as the War Zone article notes, “if the capabilities we’ve described can be gleaned from scant publicly available information, there are no doubts that more advanced NEMESIS components and capabilities remain classified.”

Then, what if we threw in the idea that those drone swarms might be mind-controlled