Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 15, 2013

A New Revelation on UFOs and More Evidence They Aren’t Aliens

Filed under: skepticism,ufo — Stuart Robbins @ 11:18 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


I tend not to write that much on UFOs = aliens. Of the now 25 posts (including this) that are tagged “UFO” on this blog, very few actually deal directly with the issue. The reason is fairly simple: There’s no new evidence, and what evidence there is, leaves much to be desired.

Let me be very specific about my terms here: When I say “UFO,” I mean an “unidentified flying object.” As in an object, in the sky, that appears to be flying, that is unidentified. When I say “UFOs = aliens,” I mean the belief that about half Americans share that UFOs are alien craft. Obviously the former is real. The latter is what people argue about.

Primary Evidence

The vast majority of UFOs = aliens “evidence” is in the form of eyewitness reports. UFOs = aliens researchers often tout these from “highly credible” witness despite those witness accounts claiming things that are impossible for them to know: Height, speed, and size of the “craft.” For details on why that is impossible, I will direct you to my Podcast Episode 2.

But, briefly, all you can do is measure the angular speed and size of the object, but without knowing the physical speed or size or distance, you cannot convert the angular measurement into a physical measurement. Ergo, anyone who states they saw a craft that was, for example, a mile wide, 100 miles up, and traveling at 5000 miles per hour is wrong (intentionally or not). They have no way of knowing if it was that far away or just something that was 100 ft up, 1 ft wide, and traveling at 50 ft per hour instead. (This is, again, unless they have an independent way of measuring the actual value for one of those or have a solid frame of reference, such as if it went behind a tree, then you know it was at least as far away as that tree.)

The primary other evidence for a UFO = alien craft typically is in the eyewitness stating they saw the craft do something that is impossible for terrestrial aircraft (which hopefully readers recognize as a classic argument from ignorance (you don’t know something, therefore you assume it’s something by default)). For example, the object would be seen to stop, or hover, or dart in various directions much faster than an airplane could.

Another common claim is that the craft is silent. Therefore, it’s either very far away, or it’s some sort of anti-gravity non-engine propulsion (usually one or the other is claimed by the witness, not either-or).

Very often, no physical craft is ever seen. It’s just lights in the dark night sky. And the lights are constant, not blinking like an airplane.

I’m Building a Toy

A few months ago, I saw some amazing video done by a guy who put a camera on a quadcopter and flew it over Niagra Falls. Since I do a lot of landscape photography, this seemed like a very neat new/different approach that I could get into: Fly the camera over the landscape and take shots from vantage points I couldn’t possibly get to. (Note that quadcopters have been around for nearly 100 years.)

I’m opting for a build-your-own approach and the parts are finally shipping (except for the flight control board, which is still on back-order). In the meantime, I’ve been learning how to fly on a mini version, the Blade mQX. With the Blade, I’ve been able to fly several hundred feet up, and my starting point is 6000 ft above sea level.

I’ve also been able to dart all over the place. For photography – and especially videography – you don’t want to do that, but it’s a good way to learn how to really control the craft, to do crazy things with it. And with something cheap like the Blade with several spare parts on-hand, it’s okay if I crash (and you will crash if you haven’t flown one before). Here’s just one of many videos on YouTube showing the kind of flying you can do with a quadcopter.

One issue with quadcopters – or at least something that I’m mildly worried about – is what happens if I don’t know which way is forward anymore? I’m getting bright orange propellers for the back and bright green for the front, but 500ft up, will I see that? So, I got running lights to put along the arms. Again, green and orange. That way, hopefully I’ll be able to see which way is forward and which is backward. That way, when I push the controller for it to go left, it goes left instead of right or away from me or towards me or in some other direction. Other people just put one light at the end of each arm, under the motors.

Put These Together: UFOs = Quadcopters

Take a look at this video of a quadcopter with a few lights flying at night. He went a bit out there in terms of lighting, but the effect is fairly clear: This is the kind of behavior described by many UFOs = aliens eyewitnesses:

  • The craft is silent (if you’re more than 100 ft away, you can’t hear a quadcopter).
  • The craft is lit.
  • It performs aerobatics.

You can also cut the power for the lights. You can zoom it up. You can bring it down. You can also build a hexcopter (6 arms) instead and light only three legs, giving you three lights for the typical “triangular craft.”

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying that aliens / ETs do not exist.

I’m not saying that some UFOs could be alien / ET craft.

I’m not saying that all UFOs are actually hobbyist heli/quad/hex/octo/etc. copters.

What I am saying is that there is an extraordinary claim (those lights in the sky that I don’t know what they are are actually extraterrestrial craft) that lacks ANY extraordinary evidence (eyewitness arguments from ignorance). That argument from ignorance is commonly of the form, “No terrestrial aircraft could possibly do what I saw that UFO do!” That argument from ignorance also frequently contains meaningless conjecture on the size, distance, and speed of a few lights in the sky.

What I am saying is that quadcopters and similar toys that a lot of people build and fly for fun are out there (for some reason my brother is now getting into it, and my dad’s been thinking about it for awhile, and now I’m building one), but many people have never heard of them (I hadn’t until a few months ago). And, if you put lights on them (which many do) and fly them at night for fun (which many do), they behave exactly the way that these eyewitnesses say their UFO did in those kinds of UFO = aliens cases.

What I am saying is that I would not be surprised if many UFO reports are actually hobbyist aircraft like these.


  1. “Ergo, anyone who states they saw a craft that was, for example, a mile wide, 100 miles up, and traveling at 5000 miles per hour is lying (intentionally or not, they are lying).”

    I think that’s a little bit harsh. Surely there is a difference between someone being mistaken and conscious deceit. If I make a statement that I believe to be true at the time, but it turns out I’m mistaken, I wouldn’t take kindly to being referred to as a liar. I don’t think it’s accurate to use the word in the way you do here. Intentionality surely goes to the heart of lying. Without intentionality, it’s a matter of being mistaken, hence the phrase “honest mistake”. Ironically, given that your statement “intentionally or not, they are lying” is probably inaccurate in what it contends, by your own logic its very use makes you a liar… That’s a little glib, I know, but you get the point!😉

    Comment by Mark Barry — October 15, 2013 @ 11:48 am | Reply

    • Better?

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 15, 2013 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

      • Better!

        Comment by Mark Barry — October 15, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

  2. Mark has a valid point. It is a bit harsh.

    Certainly their are people who’s seen alien crafts at day time – very low in the sky, like myself. I was around 12 yrs old and didn’t even know what it is until I watched some movie when I was 16 or so. I was able to identify or relate it to my sighting. There were easily about 40-50 people standing and witnessing this, which is what caught my attention. The acrobatic maneuvers it performed as well as the lighting display is certainly something I’ve seen to date that I can relate it to. I’m very sure we don’t possess technology like that on earth. I’m 44yrs now so that was a long time back.

    Comment by Shane Schuller — October 15, 2013 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

    • Oops – I meant certainly something I haven’t seen to date…

      Comment by Shane Schuller — October 15, 2013 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  3. Surely UFO sightings long predate quadcopters?

    Comment by Trekker — October 16, 2013 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

    • Actually, not that much. UFOs didn’t become big until the mid-1900s, and the first quadcopters were built in the 1920s. Now, of course the modern toy / hobby wasn’t big maybe until the 1990s-ish (I remember playing with my dad’s helicopters in the ’90s and they had lights).

      But, I’m also not saying that this is THE explanation. I’m especially not saying it’s THE explanation for ALL UFO sightings. What I’m saying is that this is a viable explanation for a large class of modern-type sightings and I would not be surprised if, when people say they see weird lights at night doing odd things that aircraft (as in airplanes) don’t/can’t do that some of them are quadcopter-type things.

      The post is not meant as an explanation “I HAVE SOLVED THE ENIGMA!” at all. Instead, it’s an observation that fits what people claim are a class of UFOs -> aliens.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 16, 2013 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

      • I’ve listened recently to a podcast by a Bigfoot Believer where he challenges Skeptics (or as he referred to them ‘Scoftics’) to come up with a ‘unified explanation’ for all the ‘unexplained’ Bigfoot sightings or declare defeat.

        Of course he provides no details of just which sightings he’s referring to, what the conditions were when they occurred, who was there or even what was ‘sighted’. Or even if the information he is using comes from primary documentation or from some believer book that just copied & pasted from other believer books.

        Comment by Graham — October 19, 2013 @ 8:25 am

      • And that’s why I typically don’t get into UFO things, because it’s a huge class of phenomena that has no single simple answer. I think that these kinds of hobbyist toys / craft are a likely explanation for some of them, though.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 19, 2013 @ 8:39 am

      • While visiting another blog that deals with specific UFO claims I found an entry from the 30th of August in which the author describes what he termed a “…a UFO…In the True Sense” (Eg he saw a light in the sky and did not know what it was.) In the blog entry he makes it quite clear that what he saw was most likely a meteor or a satellite. The first reply is from a Believer which opens:

        “A bug, the planet Saturn, a plane, weather inversion, a whip-poor-will, nothing at all, etc. Any serial debunker à la would dispose of your observation in less time than it takes to swat a mosquito regardless of what you actually reported.”


        Talk about not reading what was written…!

        Comment by Graham — October 20, 2013 @ 4:27 am

      • Many people who have attempted to comment on this post have not read what was actually written here or in the comment policy. It seems to happen a lot with this topic.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — October 20, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  4. […] Why? Because of the high potential for mis-identification and the inclusion of mistaken details. For more, check out this episode of the Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast! […]

    Pingback by Is Eyewitness Testimony of UFOs Evidence They are Alien in Origin? — November 4, 2013 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  5. […] so I’ll dispense with the usual subject headings. Several months ago, I wrote a blog post wherein I surmised that many (not most, not all, but many) UFO reports might, in fact, be hobby &#82…. “Toys” as in quadcopters and related flying remote controlled […]

    Pingback by Quadcopters Mistaken as UFOs, Redux | Exposing PseudoAstronomy — January 16, 2014 @ 4:44 am | Reply

  6. […] Why? Because of the high potential for mis-identification and the inclusion of mistaken details. For more, check out this episode of the Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast! […]

    Pingback by Is Eyewitness Testimony of UFOs Evidence They are Alien in Origin? | UFOreligions — February 9, 2014 @ 8:06 pm | Reply

  7. Good point, But when I was in navy, 1988,We saw a giant saucer light disc come out of water at night slowly ,then it flew away.

    Comment by Martin — August 12, 2014 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

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