Balloons and drones among 768 Canadian UFO reports from 2022: researcher
Balloons and drones were among 768 reported UFO sightings in Canada last year, according to Winnipeg-based researcher Chris Rutkowski, who also found that eight per cent of all cases remained unexplained.
"The possibility that some UAP are actually drones or balloons is quite strong," Rutkowski told CTVNews.ca, using the acronym for unidentified aerial (or anomalous) phenomena: a term that has been replacing "UFO" in official circles. "And if drones and balloons are in Canadian airspace without authorization, that's a problem and may pose a threat to air travel and safety."
Rutkowski is a science writer and ufologist who has documented more than 23,000 Canadian sightings since 1989 through the annual Canadian UFO Survey.
"The goal has been to provide data for use by researchers trying to understand this controversial phenomenon," the 2022 Canadian UFO Survey states. "Popular opinion to the contrary, there is no incontrovertible evidence that some UFO cases involve extraterrestrial contact."
Published Monday, the 2022 Canadian UFO Survey claims at least 1,000 Canadians reported seeing an unidentified flying object in 2022.
"Results of this study show that many people continue to report unusual objects in the sky, and some of these objects do not have obvious explanations," the survey explains. "Many witnesses are pilots, police and other individuals with reasonably good observing capabilities and good judgment."
Highlights from 2022 include:
--a Sept. 10 report from B.C. of "a large, disc-shaped object, with a mirror-like finish on its underside, [that] hovered over [the witnesses'] sailboat on the Fraser River;"
---a "group of bright lights stationary above trees" that was photographed in Sainte-Martine, Que. on Sept. 24;
--and an Oct. 24 report from Edmonton of a "grey, vibrating, boomerang-shaped object" that appeared after a "loud noise like an explosion was heard."
"One thing that is different over the past several years is the increase in photos and videos, due to everyone having a cell phone," Rutkowski said. "But that doesn't mean we are getting better photos of UAP. In fact, most images are useless. Cell phones are not designed to take photos or videos of distant lights moving in the night sky."
Of the 768 reports, only 8.2 per cent were considered "unexplained," with the others being confirmed or likely sightings of balloons, drones, meteors, military exercises, floating lanterns and SpaceX Starlink satellites, which travel in glowing lines. About 52 per cent were described as aerial lights, with witnesses also reporting shapes such as spheres and triangles.
"The majority of sightings are simply lights in the sky, and that has not changed," Rutkowski, who recently published his tenth book on the subject, said. "Many people are reporting stars and planets, especially when those objects are stationary or observed for hours at a time, refracting in the atmosphere."
While most of the reports were submitted to Rutkowski and civilian UFO research groups like MUFON, nearly 50 of them were discovered in an online aviation incident database operated by Transport Canada, which is the federal government's transportation department.
As CTVNews.ca previously reported, more than 10 of those reports were made by pilots flying for airlines such as Air Canada, WestJet, Virgin Atlantic, United, KLM and more in 2022, including a Dec. 15 case case involving Air Canada and KLM flights over the Arctic Ocean that both "reported unknown lights ahead at a very high altitude" that "were described as pinpoints, and were observed at least 20 times over a 1 hour period… and moved in different directions."
Transport Canada cautions such "reports contain preliminary, unconfirmed data which can be subject to change."
Documents obtained through Canadian access to information requests show how Rutkowski quietly received UFO reports directly from officials at Transport Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Force from late 1999 until mid-2021. A May 2022 CTVNews.ca investigation also revealed that Rutkowski contributed material to a May 27, 2021 UAP briefing held for Canada's previous minister of national defence, Harjit Sajjan.
In the U.S., both the Pentagon and NASA are currently studying what they call UAP, short for unidentified anomalous (or aerial) phenomena. By contrast, there is generally little to no official follow-up on UAP reports in Canada.
A Transport Canada spokesperson previously told CTVNews.ca that reports "of unidentified objects can rarely be followed up on as they are as the title implies, unidentified." The Canadian military also routinely states that it does "not typically investigate sightings of unknown or unexplained phenomena outside the context of investigating credible threats, potential threats, or potential distress in the case of search and rescue." Since 2016, at least four incidents appear to have met that criteria.
Rutkowski would like to see a proper UAP research program established in Canada that would work in concert with federal bodies such as the RCMP and Department of National Defence.
"I would like to see a civilian research group and a postsecondary institution be funded to collect reports," he explained. "Working with a group of scientists focused on gathering instrumented UAP observations… would be desirable as a way of studying the UAP problem objectively and with sound methodology."
According to the 2022 Canadian UFO Survey, there was a roughly six per cent increase in Canadian sightings in 2022 over 2021, although 2022 had the fourth-lowest number of reported sightings in 20 years. Quebec led the country with 29 per cent of reports in 2022, followed by Ontario with 28 per cent and B.C. with 14 per cent. Typical sightings lasted approximately 13 minutes and involved an average of 1.37 witnesses per case. Rutkowski says the number of sightings peaked in 2012, and that he has found Canadian reports dating back to the 1700s.
"The six per cent increase in UFO reports in 2022 over 2021 is largely due to 37 separate reports filed by one individual regarding objects with definitive explanations," the survey explains.
Rutkowski admits that the survey likely only captures a fraction of Canadian UFO sightings.
"Polls have found that one in ten Canadians believe they have seen UFOs or UAP," Rutkowski said. "Other studies have suggested that only one in ten witnesses of a UFO or UAP actually report them, so we can calculate that about 7,500 Canadians likely saw UFOs or UAP last year, and as many as 4 million Canadians have seen UFOs or UAP in their lifetime."