Residents of Cowley County, Kansas caused a sensation last week when they captured video of the military towing a concealed object on a flatbed truck down US Highway 77. It wasn't long before a wave of speculation hit, claiming the object was a UFO.
Depending on the angle from which you spotted it, the 30 foot-wide mysterious craft appeared to be saucer-shaped. It was so large that local law enforcement had to remove roadside signage so it could pass through. But it was covered in a tightly concealed tarp, making any further examination impossible.
However, as Gizmodo points out, the craft does not technically meet the definition of UFO. For starters, even if it were an alien craft, the object was not flying. And more important, it's no longer unidentified.
Local sheriff Don Read announced that the tarp was in fact covering a flying object, but one of decidedly Earthly origins. More specifically, it was a drone aircraft manufactured by Northrop Grumman. After Read's disclosure, Northrop Grumman senior manager of public relations Brooks McKinney stepped forward to provide more details, telling Life's Little Mysteries that the "UFO" is a X-47B unmanned combat drone designed to operate from aircraft carriers. It was headed to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
The X-47B unmanned drone (NorthropGrumman.com)Drone technology, or Unmanned Systems (UMS) have become so commonplace, that Northrop Grumman has a section dedicated to them on its public website. There's even a page for the X-47B itself.
"Clearly people are interested in what's going through town. It's unusual to see a shrink-wrapped aircraft, especially one with that shape," McKinney said.
"We built two for the Navy, they were being tested at Edwards Air Force Base [in California] since March. One is on its way to Maryland, and the other will remain in California."
And the reason they weren't actually flying the high-tech aircraft was even simpler. "It's difficult to fly an unmanned drone through commercial airspace," McKinney said.
Finally, the question "What's the matter with Kansas?" can be answered: A painful lack of alien spaceships.
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