The Defense Department has received 366 new reports of UFOs or “unidentified aerial phenomena” since March 2021, and about half of them appear to be balloons or drones, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
An initial assessment found that the phenomena in 26 cases were unmanned aircraft or similar to drones and that 163 were balloons or “balloon-like entities,” while six reports could be attributed to birds, debris such as plastic bags or weather events, the unclassified report said.
But the report also noted that an “initial characterization does not mean positively resolved or unidentified.”
About half of the new cases could not be explained and “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” it said.
A classified version of the report was submitted to lawmakers, as mandated by a defense spending bill passed by the last Congress.
The public report said multiple factors affect the observation of an unidentified aerial phenomenon, or UAP, “such as weather, illumination, atmospheric effects, or the accurate interpretation of sensor data.”
The majority of new sightings came from Navy and Air Force aviators and operators, the report said, adding that the new reports bring the total number of UFO cases to 510.
The increase “is partially due to a better understanding of the possible threats that UAP may represent, either as safety of flight hazards or as potential adversary collection platforms," the report said. The increase was also “due to reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting.”
More reporting “allows more opportunities to apply rigorous analysis and resolve events,” it said.
Following demands from Congress, the top intelligence agency released its first report on UFOs in 2021, which looked at 144 reported cases. Officials found no evidence that the reported sightings indicated signs of extraterrestrial life or new breakthrough aircraft or weapons by foreign adversaries.
Although the report cited no evidence that UFO sightings could be linked to foreign adversaries, government agencies “will continue to investigate any evidence of possible foreign government involvement in UAP events."
The Pentagon last year set up an office to document and analyze UFO reports. It's known as the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office.
Lawmakers from both parties welcomed the report as an important step forward. But Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said “more needs to be done across the Defense Department and Intelligence Community to utilize existing sensors to collect and analyze more data on UAPs.”