LOS ANGELES — Authorities investigating a series of possible jetpack sightings over Los Angeles believe they may have identified the real culprit — one that requires no fuel, no engines and no high-flying technology.
“One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Aviation Administration said in statements to NBC Los Angeles.
The theory gained support after images captured by a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter crew last year showed a human-shaped balloon — believed to be a life-sized Jack Skellington, of Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas” — floating thousands of feet above Beverly Hills.
The images, which were obtained by NBC Los Angeles, showed what could have been a single balloon from a Halloween decoration that broke loose and drifted into the sky.
There have been three sightings over Los Angeles International Airport — one on August 30, 2020, another nearly two months later, on Oct. 14, and a third earlier this year, on July 28.
In all three cases, commercial airline pilots said they saw what appeared to be jetpacks flying at altitudes of 3,000 feet; 6,000 feet; and 5,000 feet.
None of the sightings have been verified, federal authorities said.
David Mayman, the chief executive of Los Angeles-based Jetpack Aviation, said last year that jetpacks weren’t a plausible explanation. The machines produced by his company — none of which had been sold — only hold a dozen gallons of fuel, or about 10 minutes worth, and couldn’t have reached the altitudes described by the pilots.
“To climb and descend — it takes some time to do that,” he said, adding: “You’d just be out of fuel.”
Mayman’s theory? A battery-powered drone, loaded with an inflatable mannequin and flown remotely.
“Any teen could put this together with parts from China,” he said. “You could be talking about a bright high school kid or college kid — they could build something like this really easily.”