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New US Government UFO Report Adds Hundreds of Sightings

The US government now uses the term UAP, for "unidentified aerial phenomena."

Unidentified dark object in the sky as viewed by a Navy pilot
The unidentified object tracked by a Navy pilot in 2015 in the "Gimbal" video.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

What is that strange object in the sky? A new US government report on unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, has some possible answers, but a whole lot of mysteries remain. One thing you won't find in the report: the words alien or extraterrestrial.

UAPs are more popularly known as UFOs, or unidentified flying objects. They're often associated with sci-fi concepts of alien visitation. The government is now required to issue an annual report on UAPs to Congress. On Thursday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an unclassified version of the 2022 report to the public.

One of the key findings for 2022 is that UAP reporting is increasing. Most of the new reports came from Navy and Air Force personnel, including aviators. ODNI logged an additional 247 sightings since its 2021 report, and also added 119 sightings that were discovered or reported after that preliminary assessment came out. That brings the grand total of UAP sightings for the last 17 years up to 510. 

Multiple factors may be influencing the firehose blast of new UAP reports. ODNI said that "the observed increase in the UAP reporting rate 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, and partially due to reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting." The phrase "adversary collection platforms" is a reference to the possibility that some UAPs may be connected to foreign governments gathering intelligence information. 

The Department of Defense's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office collects and analyzes UAP reports. Out of the 366 newly identified reports, AARO's characterizes 163 of them as "balloon or balloon-like entities." A half dozen are attributed to what it calls "clutter," which includes birds or floating debris like plastic bags. Another 26 were likely drones. That leaves 171 reports "uncharacterized and unattributed."

ODNI and AARO aren't making any definitive declarations about the truly unknown objects. "Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis," the report said. ODNI also said many of the reports lack detailed data. 

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ODNI said UAPs pose a flight safety risk, though there have been no reported collisions between UAPs and US aircraft. Overall, the report is slim on details, and, alas, there are no titillating references to visitors from beyond our planet.