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Government UFO task force will use AI to study bizarre ‘alien’ aircraft

Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a nine-page preliminary unclassified report on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP), the government’s term for UFOs. This report wasn’t as exciting as some had hoped, though it is the start of what may prove to be an interesting development over the coming months and years. One tidbit from the report hints at how the government plans to learn about UAPs: by using artificial intelligence.

What we know so far

The unclassified preliminary report offers a very minor look at what various government sectors know about the UAP/UFO phenomenon, including instances in which these objects were observed. The report was intended to shed light on the potential threat posed by these unusual ‘alien’ aircraft, which have been spied in everything from close encounters with commercial aircraft to seemingly antagonizing intrusions with military vessels.

The gist of the report is that the government doesn’t know what these objects are and whether they’re an actual national security threat. The data comes from the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), a program formed by the Department of Defense that operates as part of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The task force is intended to “standardize the collection and reporting” of the phenomena. Among other things, the DNI report says, “Data continues to be collected and analyzed.”

The idea is that forming a standardized and consistent means for consolidating these UAP reports from agencies across the federal government will improve the quality of data while streamlining the analysis process. How, exactly, will the data be analyzed? Though many details aren’t forthcoming, the DNI report does contain one hint at how the government is approaching this mystery.

Artificial intelligence may be key

On page six of the report, the DNI reveals that the UAPTF will initially use AI and machine learning algorithms to “cluster and recognize similarities and patterns in features of the data points.” Using artificial intelligence to make sense of data is nothing new, but this is perhaps one of the most interesting uses of the technology to date.

Though human analysis can turn up many details, the tedious work takes considerable time as the amount of data grows and certain data points may not be recognized in the mix. Machine learning algorithms are able to rapidly process large amounts of data in search of things like commonalities and anomalies, alerting human experts to identified patterns and points of interest to help guide a deeper exploration of the topic.

The government’s use of AI will help address the biggest issue related to UAP/UFO reports: figuring out which ones are credible and truly involve unknown phenomena rather than mistaken, but quite mundane and explainable, objects. Shiny ballons, distant birds flying in formation, drones with LEDs, and similar subjects can be easily mistaken for UFOs when viewed by someone unfamiliar with the objects or in distracting environments like storms.

The DNI explains that as the UAPTF’s database grows, the artificial intelligence that analyzes it will learn to tell the difference between ordinary terrestrial objects like weather balloons from truly interesting and seemingly unexplainable objects.

Limited data is a problem

The report makes it clear that the task force is working under the assumption that sensors used to observe the phenomena “generally operate correctly” and that enough actual data is collected in the process to facilitate “initial assessments.” There may be instances in which sensor anomalies could explain why an observed object acts in erratic or unexpected ways, however.

At this time, at least as far as the report is concerned, the UAPTF has focused on a selection of observations and incidents largely reported by people who work for the US government. A total of 144 cases are briefly detailed, only one of which could be positively identified as a deflating balloon.

The majority of the reports involved multiple aspects of observation ranging from personnel who saw the objects to tracking with multiple types of sensors, including infrared and radar, weapon seekers, and more. Beyond that, the report confirms that some of the observations involved UAP that seemed to “exhibit unusual flight characteristics.”

The report cautions that a more “rigorous analysis” of these instances is necessary to determine whether the strange activity could have been the result of sensor errors or spoofing technology, the latter of which confuses tech systems into perceiving something that isn’t actually taking place.

Security concerns

The UAPTF is operating with the assumption that there are multiple explanations for these reports and that most of them will involve mundane reasons like industry programs or natural atmospheric phenomena. However, the government is accommodating other potential explanations in a catch-all “other” category, which the report notably fails to elaborate upon beyond covering objects for which “pending scientific advances” would enable a better understanding.

Though the US government has avoided all mentions of the possibility of these craft being alien in origin, it does emphasize a major concern about potential national security problems associated with the phenomenon. The report indicates that the technology could be the result of a foreign adversary, though critics of this idea point out the improbable and highly concerning notion that another country could have spent years operating such vehicles around the US military without being identified.

Beyond the national security concerns, the DNI report mentions that some pilots have reported “near misses” with UAPs, incidents that were documented in 11 cases. The instances in which these unknown objects have operated in close proximity to aircraft indicate they may be a threat to airspace safety.

Working together to solve the mystery

At this point in time, the UAPTF is developing an interagency system for analyzing and processing UAP reports and data. There are limitations to the analysis at this time as hinted at in the report. The UAPTF is largely working with information provided by the US Navy, according to the DNI, though it hopes to change this by opening a pathway for other agencies to easily consolidate and share their data.

The report indicates that the US Air Force did not contribute data to this report. The UAPTF is presently attempting to get any data the USAF may have, but it’s unclear what may be the current limiting factor and how far the task force is in this process.

The US Air Force is not uninformed about the issue. The DNI report reveals the USAF formed a pilot program in November 2020 that would run for six months. This program was intended to identify hot spots where UAPs/UFOs are most likely to be encountered. Though the pilot program would now be over without an extension, the report reveals that the USAF is currently “evaluating how to normalize future collections, reporting, and analysis” across the entire branch.

The Federal Aviation Administration is likely to play a major role in the gathering of UAP data. The UAPTF has started receiving some information from the FAA, which is said to acquire the data as part of its normal air traffic operations management. The UAPTF may particularly benefit from data the FAA continuously acquires, using it to find anomalies that may bolster its budding machine learning algorithms.

Beyond the military

The government likewise plans to expand its analysis to reports from more than just government employees, noting that the UAPTF can use the FAA’s “robust outreach program” to increase understanding and emphasize the need for reports from the aviation community. The DNI report’s note about “the importance of reporting UAP” incidents underscores the urgency the government may harbor in regards to the phenomena, which still remains of little interest to the general public.

The report goes on to explain:

The UAPTF is looking for novel ways to increase the collection of UAP cluster areas when U.S. forces are not present as a way to baseline “standard” UAP activity and mitigate the collection bias in the dataset.

Another tidbit in the report reveals that the use of machine learning algorithms in this program will not be limited to newly collected data. The DNI revealed that a proposal has been made to utilize “advanced algorithms” to study the mass of historical data from radar and other systems to potentially grow the dataset and learn more about the history of this phenomenon, which in turn may shed light on its present occurrence and the driving factor behind it.

The work is just getting started, however, and the UAPTF has made it known that more funding will help it develop its program and conduct research into UAPs. Artificial intelligence will ultimately play a major role in this effort and may speed up the rate of analysis considerably, paving the way for relatively rapid advancement in the understanding of these mysterious objects spotted around the world.

The full unidentified aerial phenomena report can be found on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s website.

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Tech News

Government’s unclassified UFO report is here: Five key takeaways

After half a year of waiting, the US government has released a report on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAPs), the new term used for what has been popularly referred to as UFOs. The unclassified version of the report made available to the public is only nine pages long and, well, it’s not quite as exciting as some may have hoped. Still, there’s a bit we can learn from what was released.

Focus on certain reports

There have been thousands of UFO reports over the years, but the government — at least as far as this new report is concerned — has focused on only a tiny number of them. Rather than covering the vast scope of citings reported over the years, this report focuses almost entirely on reports made by US government officials (military personnel, etc.) from November 2004 to March 2021.

The report goes on to claim that a lack of high-quality reports about UFOs has limited the government’s ability to come to “firm conclusions” about these objects and their intent. However, in regards to the cases that were analyzed for this report, the government says that it is working from the assumptions that most of the sensors that recorded that data were operating correctly and offered valid data so that “initial assessments” could be made.

Most UAPs/UFOs remain unidentified

A total of 144 reports from “US Government sources” were included in this unclassified document, of which only one could be fully explained away as a balloon. The remaining 143 UFO reports from US government sources remain unidentified. These are more than eyewitness accounts, with the Director of National Intelligence brief noting that 80 of the incidents included “observation with multiple sensors.”

In the majority of these cases, the report goes on to explain that the UFOs more often than not interrupted planned military training exercises and other pre-arranged military activity. The stigma associated with reporting UFO activities, as well as the limitations inherent to these reports, contribute to the difficulty involved with investigating them.

More than a dozen UFOs were ‘unique’

Though the government doesn’t have much to offer in terms of conclusions, the report does claims that “some potential patterns” have emerged from these observations — and, in fact, a total of 18 UFO incidents described in 21 reports displayed “unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics,” according to the government report.

The government report describes some of the characteristics that were considered unusual, including that some of the UFOs were able to move “at considerable speed” despite a lack of “discernable means of propulsion.” As well, the UFOs were observed remaining still despite windy conditions, they were able to move against the wind, and they were observed maneuvering “abruptly.”

National security threat?

When it comes to UFOs, many people are interested in whether they’re caused by aliens — but the government is focusing on a different concern. The report repeatedly talks about the phenomenon as something that raises national security concerns, noting that they may also be a risk to flight safety.

The government’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force claims to have 11 document reports from pilots who said they’d experienced “near misses” with UAPs/UFOs during a flight. Likewise, the government says that it doesn’t have data to show these objects are “part of a foreign collection program or indicative of major technological advancements by a potential adversary.”

However, with a lack of explanation for the phenomenon, the government says these objects may represent a national security concern, particularly because some of these UFOs have been “detected near military facilities or by aircraft carrying the USG’s most advanced sensor systems.”

We don’t know what we don’t know

Ultimately, the public doesn’t know what it doesn’t know — and that’s to say, there’s also a classified portion of this government report that was only made available to Congress. We don’t know what was contained in that classified portion, though statements from politicians last week indicated that it didn’t contain anything too exciting and that it, too, focused primarily on national security.

As well, the government goes on to state that there are likely multiple explanations for these observations, including everything from “airborne clutter” like birds and plastic bags to natural phenomena like ice crystals. As well, the report acknowledges that some observations may be due to foreign tech or domestic government/private technology programs.

Beyond that, the government shoehorns the other possibilities — yes, aliens included — in a vague “Other” section, stating only that it requires most data to properly analyze the phenomenon. The full report can be downloaded from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s website here.

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Tech News

What to expect from the Pentagon UFO report

2020 will forever be the year of COVID-19, but it has a different meaning for UFO enthusiasts. This marked the time when the Pentagon’s covert UFO operation became an above board government program.

And on Friday June 25, it will publish its first report covering 120 UFO sightings.

Does this means aliens exist? Disappointingly, the Pentagon will probably point to high-tech aircraft by Russia or China as an explanation. Still, it won’t completely rule out extraterrestrials. 

To try and get to the bottom of this, we discussed the much-anticipated report with TNW’s Alex Griffioen, one of the Netherlands’ main UFO experts and initiator of the UFO sightings website

We asked Griffioen if we should still be excited about this report even if the US government won’t acknowledge it’s aliens.

He gave us an unequivocal “yes” to this.

Telling us that it’s the first time since 1969 the Pentagon is publishing a report about UFO (or UAP) sightings. Back then, he explained, the US Air Force looked into about 12000 UFO reports, and concluded the sightings could mostly be explained by everyday phenomena. 

“This report had a huge impact on how people thought about UFOs,” Griffioen said. “Since they had been officially ‘debunked,’ UFOs became the realm of crazy people and sightings were no longer reported in fear of ridicule — or worse.” 

This all changed in 2017, when the New York Times published their sensational expose on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). 

This mysterious investigation had been running since 2007 and cost $22 million. “The news was groundbreaking because it proved the Pentagon was seriously looking into this again, and that their 1969 conclusions apparently were no longer valid; if they ever were,” Griffioen commented. 

Arguably even more impactful was the release of three videos made by different navy pilots. 

These videos show strange-looking flying objects that can accelerate within seconds and seem to defy the laws of physics.

When those videos came out, it resulted in a snowball effect with even more pilots reporting sightings. Congress could no longer ignore the questions these phenomena posed and founded the UAP Task Force for further investigation. 

Their first report is coming out on Friday and we asked Griffioen what to expect.

He told us that the Pentagon will acknowledge the presence of UFOs —nobody disputes the validity of the sightings and videos but will probably try to explain them as earthly phenomena. For example, countries like Russia and China secretly testing ultra-advanced, hypersonic planes. 

Griffioen isn’t buying this. 

“Let’s say it’s Russia, a country with a minuscule defense budget compared to the US. So Russia created gravity-defying vehicles in 2004 that can buzz around at hypersonic speeds for a full day and don’t need fossil fuels? If Russia’s technology would really be that much more advanced, wouldn’t there be hover boards on the streets of Moscow by now?”

We then questioned Griffioen about how many more videos we can expect to see.

He told us we don’t know much about the report’s contents. But Luis Elizondo, the former director of AATIP and the driving force behind the declassification of the three existing videos, has seen more footage. 

Elizondo resigned in 2017 and has since worked on the documentary series ‘Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation’ by the History Channel. 

“Elizondo identified five ‘observables’ when he worked for AATIP; unique traits that can help filter UAP sightings,” Griffioen said. “For example, there’s instantaneous acceleration: moving from zero to Mach six or seven in seconds. If a human being was inside that craft, they would turn into mush because of the G-forces. Another one is ‘transmedium travel’: the ability to move in or out of the water without losing speed.”

According to Griffioen, these underwater UFOs are called USOs — or “unidentified submersible objects.” And they’re a lot more common than you might think.

Here though, comes the big question: have we encountered aliens or not?

“I think we spotted non-human intelligence,” Griffioen said. “I wouldn’t use the term ‘aliens.’” 

The term he does use is “non-human intelligence — or NHI.” Griffioen told us that humans like to envision martians who climb onto spaceships and travel from their planet to ours.

He doesn’t believe it’s that simple.

Instead, he thinks that “these NHIs could also come from another dimension in space and time.” Effectively, he’s a proponent of the multiverse theory. This means the sightings exist on Earth, but in a “spectrum we can’t register” as humans.

As you can tell, Griffioen is a true believer. But, if what he thinks is true, what would need to happen for the Pentagon to confirm the existence of non-human intelligence?

To this, Griffioen replied with: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

On a more serious angle, he thinks we’d need to prove that these unidentified objects are breaking our understanding of the rules of gravity, aerodynamics, and acceleration. “Maybe that’s enough?”

But the US government confirming the existence of non-human intelligence might be closer than it appears.

According to author Sam Harris, he has been approached by an individual with ties to the American government in order to help shape the public message that hon-human intelligence exists.

For Griffioen, this leaves two major options: either Sam Harris is lying, or something is being revealed to someone. We just don’t know if the latter point will stay in government circles, or will be revealed to humanity at large.

Ultimately, we don’t have enough evidence to say one way or the other if non-human intelligence exists and has interacted with Earth.

Griffioen believes this will change in our lifetimes though.

“We’ve never been closer [or] seen as much transparency as today,” he said. “I’m positive we will find out what’s out there in the coming years.”

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Epic wants to see Fortnite players’ best UFO photography

Epic has announced its first Fortography contest for its new Chapter 2 – Season 7. This new challenge, as you’d expect, revolves around the new alien theme in the game, including its UFOs, futuristic weapons, and alien characters. It’s no surprise that Epic is making this theme the subject of its Fortography challenge kicking off this season.


Dell Concept UFO, Concept Duet, and Concept Ori are intriguing peeks at future PCs

Dell’s Concept UFO, Concept Duet, and Concept Ori offer a rare peek at future products from the usually tight-lipped PC maker. PCWorld got an advance look at these concepts ahead of their announcement Monday at CES in Las Vegas. 

Because they’re concepts, we don’t know whether they’ll ever make it to market. So, think of them as hints of what Dell’s working on for future PCs, and who knows—you may see something like it someday at your local electronics store.  

Concept Ori: It folds!

The Concept Ori is a folding PC that looks a lot like the ThinkPad X1 Fold that Lenovo revealed at CES 2020. It’s a single display that folds in the middle, offering options for using it as a display, a tablet, or a clamshell laptop. A small Bluetooth keyboard would likely come with it for maximum versatility.

Concept Duo: A laptop that’s all screen

The Concept Duo is a laptop with two displays—that’s right, no keyboard tray. You can use it like a clamshell or like a book. The Bluetooth keyboard can be used separately, or it can stick to one of the displays to act more like a regular laptop. You can even create an onscreen trackpad below the keyboard when it’s stuck to the display. 

Concept UFO: It’s a PC! It’s a game controller!

The Concept UFO might as well be coming from space, as it shows something unlike anything Dell’s done before. It’s a full-fledged mini-PC with modular parts that can turn it into a game controller. Sure, it may look a lot like a Nintendo Switch, but remember, this is a full PC, offering a lot more functionality than a boring old dedicated game controller. 

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