Bizarre, ongoing sightings of what appears to be a man flying a jetpack at high altitudes have understandably baffled the public. The sightings, which started last August, have involved multiple commercial airline pilots and have all taken place at incredibly high elevations—up to 6,000 feet in the air. People naturally want to know: is it aliens? A military experiment? Some guy sent from the future to taunt us with superior technology?
Recently released documents hint at another possibility: The sightings may not be a real flesh and blood person at all, but instead a life-like mannequin, carried aloft by a drone.
The documents come from The Black Vault, typically a home base for weird de-classified military documents and UFO news. Following the first jetpack incident last August, the Vault FOIA-ed the Federal Aviation Administration for details. Published Wednesday and picked up by The War Zone, the documents show correspondence between FAA officials and air traffic officials, as they discuss the event in question.
One particular bit stands out: According to the papers, a pilot involved in the August incident told the FBI that the “jetpack man” looked identical to a dummy-carrying drone he’d seen on Youtube.
“Mike Bumberger, our LEAP [Law Enforcement Assistance Program] Agent shared that the FBI interviewed the American Airlines pilot that made the jetpack sighting,” writes John Blanco, the Aviation Safety Manager at the Los Angeles Flight Standards District Office, in an email to FAA officials. “The pilot said what he saw was exactly like the drone in the YouTube video below.”
That YouTube video Blanco is referring to was shot near an airfield in Germany and shows a camo-clad mannequin borne aloft by a powerful Duocopter drone.
This certainly seems like a plausible explanation for the recent sightings. After all, while jetpacks have existed since the 1960s, they are generally expensive, temperamental (they have been known to explode), and require a lot of energy to maintain a person. Typically, people fly them at very low elevations—or at high elevations for very short periods of time. Indeed, Jetpack Aviation—which has a product can take you 15,000 feet in the air—can only do it for about 10 minutes.
Dummies and drones, meanwhile, are inexpensive, accessible, and have been used in combination for odd purposes before—usually promotional. In 2014, a Brazilian clothing retailer used mannequin-bearing drones to promote its Black Friday deals—flying cadres of fashionable dummies around the skies of Sao Paulo to sell merch. Similarly, in the country of Georgia, a sighting of a drone carrying a figure in a hammock ended up being a publicity stunt involving a mannequin, the purpose of which was to promote the launch of a brewery’s new light beer.
So while it’s unclear why someone would be taking a mannequin on high-elevation joyrides around L.A. (maybe we’re in the midst of a PR push for a reboot of The Jetsons or something), a dummy may be a way more realistic explanation for the sightings than a real-life Iron Man.