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Why is the Pentagon interested in UFOs ?

Posted on Saturday, 18 May, 2019 | Comment icon 134 comments

What is the Pentagon hoping to gain by improving the reporting process ? Image Credit: PD - Max Pixel
Why has the Pentagon suddenly taken such an interest in the reporting and investigation of UFO sightings ?
In an article for The Conversation, aerospace engineer Iain Boyd discusses why, despite previously shutting down the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, the US government is now renewing its efforts to record and investigate sightings of UFOs.

U.S. Navy pilots and sailors won't be considered crazy for reporting unidentified flying objects, under new rules meant to encourage them to keep track of what they see. Yet just a few years ago, the Pentagon reportedly shut down another official program that investigated UFO sightings. What has changed? Is the U.S. military finally coming around to the idea that alien spacecraft are visiting our planet?

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. A 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.

Based on my prior experience as a science advisor to the Air Force, I believe that the Pentagon wants to avoid this type of confusion, so it needs to better understand flying objects that it can't now identify. 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: How should they react, without knowing if it is neutral, friendly or threatening? Fortunately, the military can use advanced technologies to try to identify strange things in the sky.

Taking the 'U' out of 'UFO'

"Situational awareness" is the military term for having complete understanding of the environment in which you are operating. 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. Globally, the number of UFO reportings in a year has peaked at more than 8,000. It's not known how many the military experiences.

Even the most heavily documented incidents end up unresolved, despite interviewing dozens of witnesses and reviewing many written documents, as well as lots of audio and video recordings.

UFOs represent an opportunity for the military to improve its identification processes. At least some of that work could be done in the future by automated systems, and potentially in real time as an incident unfolds. 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.

Drawing a complete picture

Sensors can provide a wealth of information on UFOs including range, speed, heading, shape, size and temperature. 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 the moment, though, people will need to weigh in on what all the data reveal. That's because a key challenge for any successful use of artificial intelligence is building trust or confidence in the system. 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 pixels.

So, until humans understand UFOs better, we won't be able to teach computers about them. 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 - because they won't be unidentified anymore.

Iain Boyd, Professor of Aerospace Engineering, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The Conversation

Source: The Conversation | Comments (134)

Tags: UFO, Pentagon

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #125 Posted by stereologist on 2 June, 2019, 12:18
Actually I am not stating that at all. Please read the posts again.
Comment icon #126 Posted by Desertrat56 on 3 June, 2019, 18:15
They also did not explain all cases investigated.
Comment icon #127 Posted by the13bats on 3 June, 2019, 19:27
true, "unexplained" is just that for me, its just at the moment unknown,  in context to what we are discussing some things not known then very well could be known now, but they never proved aliens, not even close. to be honest i have not decided what exactly sign, grudge and bluebooks real porpose and agendas were ( beside waste tax payer money and perhaps cold war PR ) and i believe it varied, hynek was a puppet,  he got his sweet gov pay check and did as told, this made some cry cover up, but it really wasnt covering up anything, when he made a cameo in "close encounters 3rd kind" i saw it a... [More]
Comment icon #128 Posted by badeskov on 11 June, 2019, 4:56
That is their job. Anything detected as entering US airspace is the job of the Air Force to investigate. Known or unknown. One would think. And if said evidence was actually available, can you name me one reason why a defense sec would go out and publicly announce such without the backing of the department (or Government, for that matter)? Cheers, Badeskov  
Comment icon #129 Posted by Golden Duck on 11 June, 2019, 8:43
Welcome back!
Comment icon #130 Posted by Dumbledore the Awesome on 11 June, 2019, 8:55
Hey Badeskov, haven't seen you much lately, good to see you 
Comment icon #131 Posted by Alien Origins on 11 June, 2019, 10:08
As I have said the Pentagon's only interest would be in National Security. As far as Hynek's role in Sign, Grudge and Bluebook he was only there as a science advisor...Sign, Grudge and Bluebook was an effort to explain UFO sightings...Sign and Grudge were not that popular, Bluebook was the longest running of the three.
Comment icon #132 Posted by the13bats on 11 June, 2019, 20:32
didnt mean he had to toss all credibility and interigrity out the window by being a sell out as his proclained friend r fowler claimed he did just to keep the job.
Comment icon #133 Posted by Alien Origins on 11 June, 2019, 20:54
I know what you mean't. I was just pointing out his role that's all...
Comment icon #134 Posted by the13bats on 12 June, 2019, 0:20
i know, just i like to push that since fowler was trying to make a different point and ended up shooting himself in the foot and having the billet ricochet and hit hynek too...but afterall isnt that what friends are for.

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