There's been a "dramatic increase" in reported UFOs—or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)—since the government office in charge of sightings released its last report in June 2021, per CNN. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence's initial report included 144 reports of "unidentified aerial phenomena," only one of which could be explained. Its new report, released Thursday, describes a total of 510 sightings since 2004. While some of the 366 newly identified reports came from "older sightings discovered in existing files," per CBS News, 250 occurred after March 2021. They mainly come from US Navy and Air Force pilots and operators "who witnessed UAP during the course of their operational duties," the document reads.
It notes 163 reports are thought to have involved "balloon or balloon-entities," 26 were characterized as unmanned aircraft or drones, and six were identified as aerial clutter, which can include birds and plastic bags, per CBS. "Initial characterization does not mean positively resolved or unidentified," according to the unclassified report, which notes another 171 reported sightings are still unexplained. "Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities and require further analysis," according to the report, a classified version of which was submitted to lawmakers as required, per NBC News.
The report attributes the increase in reporting to "a better understanding of the possible threats that UAP may represent, either as safety of flight hazards or as potential adversary collection platforms" as well as "reduced stigma surrounding UAP reporting," per CNN. The government has been actively encouraging UAP reporting, which "allows more opportunities to apply rigorous analysis and resolve events," the report reads. While none of the sightings were definitely linked to a foreign entity, China is a suspect in a 2019 incident involving what were later identified as drones off the US West Coast, CBS reports, noting Chinese merchant vessels were in the area at the time. (More UFOs stories.)