What does the term “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” or “UAP” mean?

By Ted Roe
Executive Director

This is the definition of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena , or UAP” as offered by
NARCAP Science Chief Dr. Richard Haines in 1980 and applied by NARCAP.org today:

“An Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, UAP, is the visual stimulus that
provokes a sighting report of an object or light seen in the sky, the
appearance and/or flight dynamics of which do not suggest a logical,
conventional flying object and which remains unidentified after close
scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically
capable of making both a technical identification as well as a common
sense identification, if one is possible.” (Haines, PP 13-22, 1980)

When NARCAP was founded in 2000 we adopted the term “unidentified aerial phenomena
or UAP” because we felt that it was a far more accurate term for the many profiles of
unidentified aerial phenomena, some of which were described as lights rather than objects,
and had not been co-opted by the “UFO community” as a term for “alien space ships” in the
way the term “UFO” has been. Many of our international partners had already adopted the
term in some form or variation. A simple review of the internet archives will show that at the
time NARCAP was founded the term “UAP” was virtually not in use inside US Ufology. Once
NARCAP began publishing papers and promoting “UAP” as an objective term the UFO
community in general picked it up and the term “UAP” has been in use ever since.

Over the years since we have encountered some steady misunderstandings regarding the
terms “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” or UAP and “Unidentified Flying Object” or UFO. One
of the most common misunderstandings is that either term is in reference to something that
could not be identified therefore it could be anything. This is exactly not correct. Both terms
are intended to convey that in cases where there is enough information that an identification
can be made by those most qualified to do so and yet an identification can not be made the
phenomenon responsible can be considered “unidentified”.  It is the best documented cases
of unidentified aerial phenomena that remain in the dataset if one adheres to this definition
and scores cases correctly.

So when correctly applying the term “UAP” (or UFO) one is saying that the
incident/phenomenon in question has been documented very well and that data was
subjected to the most qualified technical scrutiny and that the conclusion of that analysis is
that the incident/phenomenon can not be identified. When NARCAP uses these terms in a
published report that is exactly the meaning and application of the terms “UAP” and “UFO” .