Government's unclassified UFO report is here: Five key takeaways

After half a year of waiting, the US government has released a report on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAPs), the new term used for what has been popularly referred to as UFOs. The unclassified version of the report made available to the public is only nine pages long and, well, it's not quite as exciting as some may have hoped. Still, there's a bit we can learn from what was released.

Focus on certain reports

There have been thousands of UFO reports over the years, but the government — at least as far as this new report is concerned — has focused on only a tiny number of them. Rather than covering the vast scope of citings reported over the years, this report focuses almost entirely on reports made by US government officials (military personnel, etc.) from November 2004 to March 2021.

The report goes on to claim that a lack of high-quality reports about UFOs has limited the government's ability to come to "firm conclusions" about these objects and their intent. However, in regards to the cases that were analyzed for this report, the government says that it is working from the assumptions that most of the sensors that recorded that data were operating correctly and offered valid data so that "initial assessments" could be made.

Most UAPs/UFOs remain unidentified

A total of 144 reports from "US Government sources" were included in this unclassified document, of which only one could be fully explained away as a balloon. The remaining 143 UFO reports from US government sources remain unidentified. These are more than eyewitness accounts, with the Director of National Intelligence brief noting that 80 of the incidents included "observation with multiple sensors."

In the majority of these cases, the report goes on to explain that the UFOs more often than not interrupted planned military training exercises and other pre-arranged military activity. The stigma associated with reporting UFO activities, as well as the limitations inherent to these reports, contribute to the difficulty involved with investigating them.

More than a dozen UFOs were 'unique'

Though the government doesn't have much to offer in terms of conclusions, the report does claims that "some potential patterns" have emerged from these observations — and, in fact, a total of 18 UFO incidents described in 21 reports displayed "unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics," according to the government report.

The government report describes some of the characteristics that were considered unusual, including that some of the UFOs were able to move "at considerable speed" despite a lack of "discernable means of propulsion." As well, the UFOs were observed remaining still despite windy conditions, they were able to move against the wind, and they were observed maneuvering "abruptly."

National security threat?

When it comes to UFOs, many people are interested in whether they're caused by aliens — but the government is focusing on a different concern. The report repeatedly talks about the phenomenon as something that raises national security concerns, noting that they may also be a risk to flight safety.

The government's Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force claims to have 11 document reports from pilots who said they'd experienced "near misses" with UAPs/UFOs during a flight. Likewise, the government says that it doesn't have data to show these objects are "part of a foreign collection program or indicative of major technological advancements by a potential adversary."

However, with a lack of explanation for the phenomenon, the government says these objects may represent a national security concern, particularly because some of these UFOs have been "detected near military facilities or by aircraft carrying the USG's most advanced sensor systems."

We don't know what we don't know

Ultimately, the public doesn't know what it doesn't know — and that's to say, there's also a classified portion of this government report that was only made available to Congress. We don't know what was contained in that classified portion, though statements from politicians last week indicated that it didn't contain anything too exciting and that it, too, focused primarily on national security.

As well, the government goes on to state that there are likely multiple explanations for these observations, including everything from "airborne clutter" like birds and plastic bags to natural phenomena like ice crystals. As well, the report acknowledges that some observations may be due to foreign tech or domestic government/private technology programs.

Beyond that, the government shoehorns the other possibilities — yes, aliens included — in a vague "Other" section, stating only that it requires most data to properly analyze the phenomenon. The full report can be downloaded from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's website here.