NASA Releases Independent UAP Report "UAP Pose A Threat To US Airspace Safety"

NASA Independent Study Team releases final report on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena.



Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 14th Sep 2023 13:40 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

NASA Independent Study Team releases final report on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena.

NASA To Update Media On Findings Of The Study At 10am ET - Watch Live


The study of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) presents a unique scientific opportunity that requires a rigorous, evidence-based approach. 

The independent study finds Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will be essential tools for identifying rare occurrences, including UAP, within vast datasets. NASA's experience in computational and data analysis techniques will be valuable in this regard, aslong as provided data collections adhere to strong standards.

The independent study finds engaging the public in UAP data collection using modern crowdsourcing techniques, including smartphone-based apps, is important. The independent study finds that NASA should explore developing or acquiring such a system to gather data from citizen observers worldwide. Additionally, a standardized system for civilian UAP reports is needed, and NASA can assist AARO in developing this system.

The negative stigma surrounding UAP reporting hinders data collection. The independent study finds NASA's involvement can help reduce this stigma and promote transparency, rigorous analysis, and public engagement, thereby encouraging a scientific approach to UAP study.

The independent study finds UAP do pose a threat to U.S. airspace safety, making integration within a systematic, evidence-based framework crucial. NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), administered for the FAA, could be harnessed for UAP reporting by pilots and aviation professionals, providing a critical database for understanding UAP. NASA's partnership with the FAA can also explore advanced analysis techniques for future air traffic management systems.


Finding 1 : "NASA'S fleet of earth-observing satellites should play a powerful supporting role to determine the environmental conditions that coincide with UAP."

Finding 2 : "It is essential to note the pivotal role that structured data curation plays in a rigorous and evidence-based framework to better understand UAP."

In summary, NASA and other civilian government entities possess a range of data sources and resources that, when harnessed and analyzed systematically, can contribute to shedding light on the nature and origins of UAP. These include Earth-observing satellites, radar networks, ground-based telescopes, SAR technology, and data curation expertise, all of which can play a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of UAP phenomena.

Earth-Observing Satellites: NASA's Earth-observing satellites provide a vast amount of data about the Earth system. While these satellites may lack the spatial resolution to directly detect small UAP, they can play a supporting role by helping to determine environmental conditions associated with UAP sightings. This includes data from missions like Terra and Aqua to probe local earth, ocean, and atmospheric conditions.

Doppler Radar Network: Assets such as the NEXRAD Doppler radar network, operated jointly by the FAA, U.S. Air Force, and National Weather Service, can distinguish interesting objects from airborne clutter, aiding in the identification of UAP.

Geostationary Satellites: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites can contribute to the search for anomalous objects beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Ground-Based Telescopes: Ground-based telescopes, like the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, will be valuable for conducting large-sky surveys and searching for anomalous objects in space.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): NASA has expertise in SAR technology, and future SAR-based Earth-observing satellites like NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) can provide high-resolution radar data to examine UAP directly and in their environmental context. SAR can also validate anomalous properties such as rapid acceleration or high-G maneuvers through Doppler signatures.

Data Curation: Structured data curation is crucial for rigorous and evidence-based analysis of UAP. NASA's expertise in curating, archiving, and distributing large volumes of data following FAIR principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability) is invaluable. This ensures that both scientists and citizen scientists can conduct meaningful analysis of UAP-related data. Moreover, NASA's commitment to consistent data protocols can help address inconsistencies in how UAP data is collected, processed, and curated, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of these phenomena.

NASA and other civilian government entities have a wealth of scientific data that could be synthesized and analyzed to gain insights into Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP).

Finding 3 : "The U.S. commercial remote-sensing industry offers a potent mix of Earthobserving sensors that have the collective potential to directly resolve UAP events."

Finding 4 : "The standardization of collected information via well-crafted calibration will make it possible to carry out a rigorous scientific investigation into UAP. NASA's experience in this area will be vital."

In summary, to advance our understanding of UAP, it is important to synthesize and analyze data from commercial remote-sensing industry sources, ground-based sensors, and ensure robust data calibration and metadata collection. This comprehensive approach, backed by NASA's expertise, can contribute to shedding light on the nature and origins of these phenomena.

Commercial Remote-Sensing Industry Data: Commercial Earth-observing sensors, such as those in satellite constellations, offer the potential to directly observe UAP events. These satellites provide imagery at sub- to several-meter spatial resolution, which aligns well with the typical scales of known UAP. The high temporal cadence of commercial remote-sensing networks can increase the chances of capturing UAP events retroactively, especially when initially observed through other means. However, a limitation is that not all parts of the Earth are covered by high-resolution satellites simultaneously, making it necessary to be fortunate to obtain high-quality observations for specific UAP events.

Ground-Based Sensors: Efforts in the private sector and U.S. academic community to deploy inexpensive ground-based sensors capable of surveying large areas of the sky are commendable. These sensors can be rapidly deployed to areas with reported UAP activity. They have the potential to establish "pattern-of-activity" trends and contribute to understanding the physical characteristics of UAP.

Data Calibration: Robust data calibration is vital for both satellite and ground-based sensor data. Calibration ensures that information gathered from these sensors and instruments is precise, dependable, and free from systematic errors or biases. Given that UAP studies often involve instruments not originally designed for detecting such phenomena, proper calibration becomes even more crucial. Additionally, metadata, including sensor type, manufacturer details, noise characteristics, and acquisition time, must accompany the data to accurately characterize both potential UAP and the sensors themselves. This is essential because some apparent UAP have turned out to be sensor artifacts when appropriate calibration and metadata scrutiny were applied.

Standardization of Collected Information: While it may require a substantial investment, standardizing collected information through well-crafted calibration is essential for conducting a rigorous scientific investigation into UAP. NASA's experience in this area is seen as crucial in ensuring the quality and accuracy of the data.

Finding 5 : "NASA should leverage its considerable expertise in this domain to potentially utilize multispectral or hyperspectral data as part of a rigorous campaign."

Finding 6 : "NASA’s expertise should be comprehensively leveraged as part of a robust and systematic data strategy within the whole-ofgovernment framework."

In summary, NASA's contributions to a comprehensive and systematic data strategy, along with its expertise in sensor technology and public trust, can significantly enhance our understanding of the nature and origins of UAP within a whole-of-government approach and NASA should engage in comprehensive data collection efforts within a broader government framework. 

Multispectral and Hyperspectral Data: NASA should employ its expertise to utilize multispectral or hyperspectral data to detect and analyze UAP with well-calibrated sensors. These data can contribute to a thorough campaign to gather information about UAP.

Large-Sky Surveys: Upcoming large-sky surveys, facilitated by federal ground-based assets like the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, will generate substantial data that can be used to identify anomalous objects beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Data Signatures and Evidence Thresholds: Establishing clear evidence thresholds is crucial, especially for automated methods. Future UAP detection sensors should have the capability to adapt rapidly to improve detection, and alert systems should promptly and consistently share transient information.

Sensor Calibration and Metadata: Overcoming challenges related to sensor calibration and obtaining sensor metadata are essential. Calibration ensures data reliability and accuracy, while metadata provides contextual and environmental information, enabling systematic analysis and the elimination of false positives.

Crowdsourcing Techniques: Modern crowdsourcing methods, including smartphone-based apps, can be valuable for gathering data from citizen observers. NASA should explore the development or acquisition of such crowdsourcing systems as part of its data strategy.

Earth-Observing Satellites: NASA's fleet of Earth-observing satellites should play a significant role in collecting data on environmental conditions during UAP sightings. Future missions like the NOAA/NASA Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) satellite system can provide essential data for UAP analysis.

Radio and Optical Astronomy: Extend data collection efforts from radio and optical astronomy beyond Earth's atmosphere to the entire solar system. Consider integrating near-Earth objects (NEO) programs for characterizing natural phenomena and anomalies.

Reducing Stigma and Building Trust: NASA's involvement in data collection can help reduce the stigma associated with reporting UAP, potentially leading to less data attrition. NASA's public trust can serve as a model for transparent reporting and rigorous analysis, contributing to the destigmatization of UAP research.

Finding 7 : "AI and ML, combined with NASA's extensive expertise, should be utilized to investigate the nature and origins of UAP."

Finding 8 : "NASA, with its expertise in data calibration, management, and advanced analysis is well-positioned to take a central role in these efforts."

In summary, the document highlights the importance of data quality and the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and standard scientific analysis techniques in investigating UAP. It emphasizes the need to understand what is considered normal before identifying anomalies and suggests that NASA can make significant contributions to this effort. 

Utilization of AI and ML: AI and ML are essential tools for identifying rare occurrences within vast datasets, including those related to UAP. NASA's expertise in these fields should be harnessed to investigate the nature and origins of UAP by analyzing data from sources such as satellites and radar systems.

Data Quality is Crucial: The effectiveness of AI and ML in studying UAP depends on the quality of the data used for training and analysis. Currently, the limitations in UAP analysis are more related to data quality than the availability of analysis techniques. Therefore, improving data quality is a higher priority.

Training Neural Networks: Once extensive and well-curated baseline data are accumulated, they can be used to train neural networks to characterize deviations from normal. Standard scientific analysis techniques used in fields like astronomy and particle physics can be adapted for UAP analyses.

Two Approaches for Detecting Anomalies: There are two approaches for detecting anomalies like UAP within datasets: constructing a model of expected signal characteristics and searching for matches, or using a model of background properties and searching for deviations from that model. The second approach is more feasible, requiring an understanding of what is considered normal in a given search area.

Calibrating Observations of "Normal": A crucial step is to systematically calibrate observations of "normal" phenomena, which is essential before searching for abnormal occurrences. This calibration work has already begun in the context of UAP analysis.

Cross-Correlation of Databases: Another potential avenue for analysis is to cross-correlate NASA's extensive databases with the locations and times of reported UAP events, once an extensive list of UAP reports is available.

Data Collection Standards: For scientific analysis, including UAP analysis, it is vital to collect data according to rigorous standards. This includes using calibrated instruments, metadata, and proper curation and integration of data.

NASA's Role: NASA, with its expertise in data calibration, management, and advanced analysis, is well-positioned to play a central role in UAP analysis within a whole-of-government framework.

Finding 9 : "The panel regards placing physical constraints on UAP, together with the suite of plausible natures and origins, as being within reach."

In considering the factors related to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), it is currently challenging to establish basic physical constraints on their nature and origins.

This difficulty arises from the inconsistency and lack of uniform characteristics in observed UAP. The primary focus for establishing constraints is on conventional events, where we have a good understanding of the achievable velocities and accelerations by modern platforms like drones, balloons, and aircraft.

Deviations from these known behaviors, such as observations of velocities and accelerations outside of the expected range, are scientifically intriguing and warrant further investigation. Accurately determining distances to UAP is crucial for validating and understanding any claims of high-velocity and high-acceleration events, as most UAP incidents have mundane explanations.

The report suggests that if a comprehensive, government-led framework for UAP investigation, involving organizations like NASA, follows the outlined steps, it may become possible to establish physical constraints on UAP and explore various plausible explanations.

If UAP consistently exhibit conventional speeds and accelerations, this would likely indicate a conventional explanation for these events. On the other hand, compelling evidence of anomalous accelerations and velocities could lead to novel explanations for UAP.

Finding 10 : "With its world-leading expertise in data curation and organization, NASA is well-positioned to advise on the best methodologies for establishing repositories of civilian airspace data."

Government agencies, such as the FAA, collect civilian airspace data that could potentially be used for analyzing Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).

This data primarily comes from sources like air traffic control towers and radar systems. However, it's important to recognize that this data is not always ideal for rigorous scientific analysis of UAPs. Typically, UAP observations occur incidentally using instruments not designed specifically for detecting such objects, and essential contextual information in the form of metadata is often missing. While some civilian airspace data has been utilized to analyze isolated UAP cases, it's unlikely to provide a comprehensive understanding of UAP characteristics like size, movement, or origins.

There is currently no standardized federal system for reporting civilian UAP sightings. While the Aerial Anomaly Research Organization (AARO) is working on establishing a systematic reporting mechanism for the military and intelligence community, FAA guidelines instruct citizens to report UAP sightings to local law enforcement or non-governmental organizations. As a result, data collection is sporadic, unsystematic, and lacks proper curation or vetting protocols.

NASA, with its expertise in data curation and organization, can play a vital role in helping the government enhance its understanding of UAPs. NASA is well-suited to advise on the best practices for creating repositories of civilian airspace data, which could contribute to the broader effort to study UAPs comprehensively.

Finding 11 : "Leveraging the Aviation Safety Reporting System for commercial pilot UAP reporting would provide a critical database."

The report discusses the need to improve reporting protocols and data acquisition systems for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).

Currently, there is a lack of a systematic framework for reporting UAPs, especially from civilians, who are directed to contact local law enforcement or non-governmental organizations by the FAA. However, relying solely on eyewitness reports is deemed insufficient for making definitive conclusions about UAPs. Therefore, there is a call to enhance the reporting and follow-up process by integrating data from existing systems, including the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.

One promising approach is to integrate UAP reporting within NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which NASA administers for the FAA.

ASRS is a confidential and voluntary system that collects safety reports from various aviation professionals, such as pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance technicians. It has been in operation for 47 years and has gathered over 1,940,000 reports, making it a valuable data source for emerging UAS (Unidentified Aerial Systems) safety issues. While ASRS was not originally designed for UAP collection, the report suggests leveraging this system for commercial pilot UAP reporting, creating a critical database for the government's efforts to understand UAPs. NASA is recommended to provide technical assistance for this purpose.

Finding 12 : "NASA’s strong partnership with the FAA will be pivotal to designing future air traffic management systems to acquire UAP data."

In summary, NASA can contribute significantly to acquiring UAP data by conceptualizing new ATM systems, exploring passive sensing techniques, incorporating diverse data types, and researching machine learning integration. These efforts can lead to a better understanding of UAPs and enhance aviation safety.

Conceptualize New ATM Systems: NASA should initiate the development of novel concepts and ideas for ATM systems that are designed to detect and record anomalous objects like UAPs. Current surveillance instruments are not equipped for this purpose.

Passive Sensing Techniques: Leverage NASA's expertise in reviewing and demonstrating passive sensing techniques. Passive sensors can capture data without emitting signals, potentially making them less intrusive for observing UAPs.

Explore New Data Types: Consider incorporating new data types, such as imaging data and multispectral or hyperspectral data, into future ATM systems. These additional data sources can provide valuable information about the UAPs.

Machine Learning Integration: Investigate the integration of machine learning algorithms into future ATM systems. These algorithms could enable real-time detection and analysis of UAPs, facilitating systematic data collection and background characterization.

Complex Research Endeavor: Recognize that the research and development of these capabilities will be a complex undertaking. It will require substantial resources and collaboration to ensure the successful integration of UAP data collection and analysis into ATM systems.

Leverage NASA's Expertise: NASA's extensive experience in researching and developing air traffic management tools, as well as its strong partnership with the FAA, should be harnessed to provide critical assistance in identifying and evaluating new safety systems aimed at understanding and managing UAPs in the airspace.


The panel's overall conclusions and recommendations emphasize NASA's crucial role in the whole-of-government effort to understand Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). They recommend that NASA utilize its extensive expertise and scientific approach to contribute significantly to this endeavor. Specifically:

  1. Utilizing Earth-Observing Assets: NASA should use its existing and planned Earth-observing assets to investigate local environmental conditions associated with UAP initially detected by other means. This will help determine if certain environmental factors coincide with known UAP.

  2. Collaboration with Commercial Remote-Sensing Industry: NASA should explore partnerships with the U.S. commercial remote-sensing industry, which has powerful Earth-observing satellites. These collaborations can enhance data gathering capabilities.

  3. Improving UAP Detection: Given that UAP detection is often accidental and sensor data lacks comprehensive metadata, NASA should leverage its expertise to use multispectral or hyperspectral data in a rigorous data acquisition campaign.

  4. Data Analysis Techniques: The panel recommends that NASA employ advanced data analysis techniques, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, in a comprehensive UAP detection campaign when combined with systematic data collection and curation.

  5. Public Engagement: Public engagement is essential, and NASA should continue to reduce stigma associated with reporting UAP. Furthermore, they should explore the development or acquisition of crowdsourcing systems, like smartphone-based apps, to gather data from citizen observers systematically.

  6. Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS): NASA should better leverage the ASRS for commercial pilot UAP reporting, utilizing the extensive database it provides. NASA's partnership with the FAA can be used to explore real-time analysis techniques for future air traffic management systems.

NASA's unique position and expertise make it a key player in advancing the scientific understanding of UAP and the independent study finds the agency should carefully consider its role in implementing these recommendations within the broader whole-of-government approach to UAP, taking into account budget priorities and its core capabilities. NASA's involvement will contribute to its mission of advancing scientific knowledge, technical expertise, and exploration.

Members of the NASA Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Independent Study Team

Dr. David Spergel - Simons Foundation (Chair)

Dr. Daniel Evans - NASA Headquarters (Designated Federal Official)

Dr. Anamaria Berea - George Mason University

Dr. Federica Bianco - University of Delaware 

Dr. Reggie Brothers - AE Industrial Partners 

Dr. Paula Bontempi - University of Rhode Island 

Dr. Jennifer Buss - Potomac Institute of Policy Studies 

Dr. Nadia Drake - Science Journalist 

Mr. Mike Gold - Redwire Space 

Dr. David Grinspoon - Planetary Science Institute

Capt. Scott Kelly, USN, Ret - NASA Astronaut

Dr. Matt Mountain - Association of Universities for Research and Astronomy

Mr. Warren Randolph - Federal Aviation Administration 

Dr. Walter Scott - Maxar Technologies 

Dr. Joshua Semeter - Boston University 

Dr. Karlin Toner - Federal Aviation Administration

Dr. Shelley Wright - University of California, San Diego


Read The Full Independent Study Report


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