A SWARM of drones flew over an Arizona nuclear reactor two nights in a row in September, but who flew them remains a mystery.
A shocking report from The Drive published on Wednesday revealed a large security breach at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station, the largest nuclear power plant in the United States back in September.
In the report, federal regulators are still unsure of who flew a group of around six drones over the station, the Daily Mail reports.
On September 29, 2019, the first group of drones flew over the plant shortly before 9pm.
Documents obtained thought a Freedom of Information Act by researcher Douglas D. Johnson from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Headquarters Operations Center show the drones were just over two feet in diameter with flashing red and white lights.
They allegedly flew roughly 200 to 300 feet above the nuclear plant which sits in an isolated desert outside of Phoenix.
An officer at the plant noticed five to six drones before they disappeared around 10:30pm.
The next night, the four drones were spotted at nearly the exact same time as the previous night but remained until around midnight, Daily Mail reported.
According to the report, local law enforcement surveyed the area but were unable to locate drones on the ground of anyone controlling them.
Among the documents released, it was revealed that the drone incidents appeared to cause annoyance to those at the Intelligence Liaison and Threat Assessment Branch rather than alarm.
"Our folks got calls last night at 2am, which is correct per the procedure," the ILTAB's chief, Laura Pearson wrote in an email. "However, I am wondering if there is a way to cut down on calls in the middle of the night for issues that ILTAB can't add value to. The call last night about drones is a good example-in the middle of the night, ILTAB can't really do anything about it anyway apart from say 'ok, thanks' and handle it in the morning."
Documents revealed a temporary policy was put in place at the Palo Verde plant to not make phone calls to ILTAB to report late-night drone incursions, Daily Mail reported.
Officials have coordinated with the FAA, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to investigate the incidents however the mystery continues.
An intelligence specialist at the Response Coordination Branch for NRC's Region IV, said the Arizona site was "unable to observe any identifying markings on the UAV's themselves or locate the operator(s)" making it difficult for further action to be taken.
Furthermore, other emails released in the report reveal that the flying of the drones may not have been technically illegal.
In Arizona, drones are prohibited from flying under 500 feet over any critical infrastructure, such as power plants and the FAA bans unmanned aircrafts from flying lower than 400 feet over "designated national security sensitive facilities."
However, it remains unclear how high the drones were flying over Palo Verde.
To prevent further incidents, Palo Verde started the process of getting the airspace over the plant to be designated as restricted by the FAA in October and is pursued a drone detection system to track drones and their operators on the ground.
The ILTAB looked into other drone-related incidents leading up to the ones in September and found 57 reports since 2014, including two at Palo Verde.
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