Since the beginnings of ufology as a field of investigation in the 1950s, many of those conducting research into the UFO phenomenon have sought to find a means to go about this work in a rigorous manner, such that any findings might prove compelling to the general public and especially the scientific community as a whole. In the 1960s and 1970s, for instance, ufologists like David Saunders (USA) and Louis Schönherr (Austria) turned to computer technology and developed codes for recording information on sightings that then could be entered into a computer database. The hope was that this would make it possible to detect patterns across the tens of thousands of reports out there. By the 1990s, however, many academic and amateur researchers remained unconvinced that these efforts had borne any fruitful results.
A team of international researchers is now pursuing a new angle. The UFO Detection and Tracking (UFODATA) Project emerged out of conversations between Mark Rodeghier (Scientific Director and President of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies) and Alexander Wendt (Professor of Political Science at the Ohio State University). As the organizers state on their website:
Our goal is to….[build] a large network of automated surveillance stations with sophisticated sensors that will monitor the skies 24/7 looking for aerial anomalies. After over two years of developing our ideas, making plans, and testing relevant technologies we are now ready to move into the next phase – a ‘proof of concept’ by developing our first working prototype of a fully functioning monitoring station. This station will have a core optical unit with cameras capable of detecting and recording both an image and spectra, a magnetic sensing unit, instrumentation to detect microwave and other radiation, and other sensors to record atmospheric and local environmental data. Alarm triggers will initiate recording by all the equipment, permitting capture of a broad range of physical data that can then be analyzed by experts.
The basic idea here is to take advantage of the “unprecedented convergence of high resolution digital camera technologies, off-the shelf scientific instrumentation, powerful low-cost computing platforms, and ubiquitous high-speed internet access” to study the UFO phenomenon in a more systematic fashion.
As has been the case throughout the history of ufology, the project is relying on volunteers (instructions on how to get involved can be found on the website) and is seeking to finance itself through crowd-funding.
For an article on the project written by a journalist involved in it, see this piece by Leslie Kean.