Birmingham UFO Group Case Report
Author: Ian Jones
Release Date: 29/06/2022
Witness Name: Nikola Dzambo
Sighting Date: 7th March 2022
Time: About 5.15am to 5.45am
Place: Birmingham – Ladywood area
Since contacting Mr Dzambo to discuss his sighting, I have not been able to contact him again to obtain more information. This report, therefore, still lacks some details, such as his drawing of what he saw.
Mr Dzambo reports he is an international student and he was sitting by the window of his 3rd floor flat in Ryland Street, Birmingham (the blue shape on the map), smoking a cigarette. It was before dawn, about 5.15am in the morning of Monday 7th March, and it was still dark. The post code places this address at the corner where Ryland Street curves round into Morville Street.
I have not been able to find out exactly which flat Nikola lives in, so it is not certain what the view is from the window he was looking from when he saw this display of lights, but he says he was looking to the South East. The building’s location is about 145 metres above sea level, but Nikola would have been well above that, on the 3rd floor. To the South East he would have looked out at the many mature trees spread along the inside of the pavement on the other side of the road, which in March would not be in leaf yet.
Behind them there is a green, open area, which is the grounds of a school and a play area. There are also several high-rise office buildings in that direction.
The arrow on the map shows that further in the South East direction are the Hagley Road / Ladywood Middleway / Broad Street / Five Ways traffic areas. The Five Ways shopping centre is about ¾ to 1 kilometre away. At 5.15 am traffic would not have been very busy, although it would have been passing through here at all times of the day.
There would also be a degree of light pollution over the city during the night, although it is impossible to estimate how this might affect seeing objects in the sky.
Further away, beyond the map, there is Edgbaston, where there is a mixture of green, open spaces, residential and higher-rise office buildings and side roads. It is about 13 kilometres in the same direction to the airport.
Details of the Sighting
Nikola’s attention was drawn to a light in the South East that was moving in an irregular pattern.
A few minutes later, several more objects appeared, then more. At one point he estimates there were between 15 and 25 sphere-shaped lights visible. They were below the clouds and brighter than stars. The dominant colour was white, but with a blue tinge.
They moved into a regular circle formation, like a vertical wheel, for about 10 seconds, before they dispersed. Each sphere flew off in a different direction and disappeared completely.
Then, a few minutes later they re-appeared, moving extremely fast, also stopping/starting suddenly, in apparently random directions.
He reports that one sphere headed West and seemed to be closer to him than the others – he estimates it was less than 1 kilometre away – and he could see it was a like an egg shape. There was a horizontal line across the middle of the shape, and it was a grey colour above this and white with blue lines below it.He could hear no sound at all.
Nikola says he tried to take pictures with his mobile phone, but only managed to capture one of the spheres in a poor-quality zoomed image and one on video for a few seconds. He reports that he felt a bit afraid at the time, but that it was nice to have seen it.
The weather at that time on that day was passing clouds, no rain and the wind was from the East at about 5mph. This rules out balls of light caused by thunderstorms in the area. Also, the wind was not strong enough to blow an object in the ways described by Nikola.
Sunrise was not until 6.39 am, so there was no reflections from it off any object anywhere. The Moon was not visible at all at that time. The planet Venus was visible, from about 4.41 am to 6.18 am, but it was always low on the South East horizon and clearly was not moving about at all. It is not likely Nikola would have been able to see it from his position in a built-up area, surrounded by tall buildings and trees. There were no other astronomical features visible during this time.
The information above suggests Nikola did not see anything that was weather-related, or astronomically-related.
The possibility that Nikola saw some sort of aircraft is not likely, given his description of the objects and how they moved and the sheer number of them. The same conclusion goes for helicopters and all types of lanterns / LED balloons / blimps.
I have not been able to find details of any event/display that was happening on any day before, or after, this time, so night-club lights directed into the sky, for example, are unlikely as well. Most entertainment venues close before, or at, midnight on Sundays.
Were They Drones?
I have done research into whether drones might have been involved, because of the number of objects Nikola saw and the fact that they do perform manoeuvres similar to those Nikola reported seeing, so they could be the most likely natural explanation.
Birmingham Airport is also in the direction Nikola was looking, so is that a factor that is relevant?
Points that need to be considered are:
Proximity to airport
Drones are normally banned from flying anywhere near airports, or within 5km of the start and end of runways, because of the risk that they pose to aircraft taking off or landing. There are also additional limitations when operating drones in densely populated and congested areas, which Birmingham certainly is.
For example, anyone putting on such a large display in the UK must get permission from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to do the display and a NOTAM must be in place. This is a Notice to Airmen, filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight. The local police may also be informed in advance of the display happening.
Still, the rules are repeatedly flouted by drone operators apparently wanting to use cameras on their gadgets to get dramatic video of, for example, jets flying past, even though they face being jailed for up to five years or fined up to £5,000 for endangering an aircraft.
Incidents of suspected drones reportedly sighted near to airports / airborne aircraft are investigated by the UK Airprox Board, which produces and publishes a report about each incident. They received no reports for 7th March.
In any event it seems unlikely that this sighting of so many objects would be linked to such illegal activities. It is doubtful whether any jets were in the area at that time and getting videos of one would have been almost impossible in the light level at that time of day.
Number of objects
With Nikola seeing more than 20 objects in view at the same time, this would not be something put on by an individual/small group.
This would require a commercial company to be operating the drones, which they would only be prepared to do for a genuine, paying customer. It would not be a cheap event to arrange.
A NOTAM is generally not required to be issued for visual line of sight (VLOS) operations due to the typically small scale, duration and operating limitations of VLOS flights. The potential need for NOTAM action must, however, form part of the drone operator’s risk assessment process, particularly above 400ft (120m), outside of controlled airspace or when several unmanned aircraft will be operating together.
There are several companies in Birmingham that use drones for all sorts of commercial and/or industrial purposes. However, there are few companies that organise drone displays/events that are based in, or near, this part of Birmingham. The nearest company to this area – about 4-5 kilometres away – was not operating any drones at any event around this date.
The planning for each commercial display takes a few days at least, often much longer, and is done on the drone organiser’s computers, so does not need any practice runs outside with the drones. It results in a slick, co-ordinated sequencing of drone movements, with no random, or strange manoeuvres.
Time of incident
The fact that it happened on a Monday and the time-of-day Nikola saw the objects – between about 5.15am and 5.45am – is not one which would be sensible for a commercial event, because it would need an invited audience on the ground to be present to see the display. There would be hardly any audience at that time.
The area for any display is carefully controlled and has to be mostly over a large area of flat ground, with the audience not directly below the drones, for safety reasons.
The horizontal area the drones fly in is rigorously controlled. They may be confined to a box at least 200 metres by 200 metres, so are programmed not to fly outside that. Yet these objects flew over a vastly much larger area of sky than is allowed by regulations.
Position of objects
The maximum height commercial drones fly at is 400 ft. in standard air space. These objects appeared to be above that sometimes. Then, drones have to be within the visual line of sight of the operator at all times, which is a maximum of 500 metres horizontally from the operator. These conditions would be impossible to meet in such a built-up area, with high buildings in the way.
Length of sighting
The maximum time commercial drones are airborne doing the actual display is about 25 minutes. These objects were in the sky for longer than that.
The description of the actual “display” seems strange, because it was so basic. Just the outline of a simple circle or wheel shape with no added detail, eg spokes, no variety of colours, or other effects, which a commercial display would definitely include. Other than that, the objects were also flying around the sky in apparently random directions, with no apparent coordination.
The display also lacked any identifying branding, logo, or advertising/message, which surely is the point of someone paying for a display of this sort.
Inevitably, people are using drones for nefarious purposes all around the world and in this country as well, so this possibility cannot be ruled out either.
The small unmanned aerial systems, (as they are referred to) have been sighted and sometimes intercepted, at numerous sites across the country amid concerns over the security threat posed by the technology.
For example, twenty such reports between 2020 and 2021 have been released to Metro.co.uk under the Freedom of Information Act. In two instances, the drones landed ‘in the area’ (it is not specified where this was in each case) and were secured by personnel.
Multiple other reports were made of the aerial vehicles near facilities or nuclear objects such as reactors, boats and submarines.
A passing detail in another response showed there was a report of a swarm – where interlinked drones take part in the same operation or attack – at a nuclear licensed site in the UK. Drones, along with any type of unmanned aircraft, are also banned, under the Air Navigation Order 2016, from flying in the airspace of nuclear installations. I am not aware of one being in this area!
This “swarm” incident took place between January 2014 and July 2020, according to the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which gave no further details. However, a swarm in this context usually refers to about 6-10 drones, which do not form patterns in the sky, or remain in the area for over 30 minutes!
The logs released in the UK do not make clear who was operating the drones at the time, or if any of the reports resulted in further investigation, with the MoD rebuffing attempts to obtain further details. The MoD cites national security exemptions in stating that the release of the information would ‘prejudice the defence of the UK’.
So, the extreme simplicity of the display, the early time of day Nikola saw it and the other factors given above, strongly suggest this was not a commercially organised event.
It is equally unlikely that one, or a few, people could put on such a display and the question to ask would be – to what end would they do this?
Also, the other possibilities are unlikely, given the absence of military facilities and nuclear sites in the area.
Summing up the available evidence and unless some more becomes available, this report remains one where UFOs were sighted. If I am able to contact Mr Dzambo again, I will update this report as appropriate.
Copyright Ian Jones 2022