WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVNS) – We all know what UFOs are, but what exactly is a UAP, and is the United States seeing more of them?

The term UAP may feel like a more alien term, but UAP is really just a newer piece of terminology referring to the same phenomena as UFOs.

Following the takedown of an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina this year, three more unidentified objects were also shot down over Alaska, Lake Huron and Yukon, Canada.

President Biden himself spoke on the nature of the balloons, saying that there was no strong link to indicate that the craft were from China. He also assured that there is not a sudden increase in UFOs happening.

“We don’t have any evidence there has been a sudden increase in objects in the sky.”

United States President Joe Biden, on a potential UFO increase

Whether the objects turn out to be private weather equipment, Chinese spy projects, or alien technology, it’s worth asking: what is a UFO?

The United States Air Force coined the term UFO in 1952, just five years after pilot Kenneth Arnold flew past Mt. Rainier in Washington state where he saw “nine bright saucer-like objects.” Though he denied initially describing them as saucers, the name already made its mark as ‘flying saucer’.

UFO has actually become an outdated term, according to experts. During the 21st century, they have taken to referring to them as UAPs or Unexplained Aerial Phenomena.

By 1956, the terms “unidentified flying object” and “UFO” were being used in place of “flying saucer” by some military officials and amateur civilian researchers. Within a decade and a half, the acronym UFO had effectively replaced “flying saucer”.

“UFO” continued to carry with it the same association with aliens that “flying saucer” once had. The current term, “unidentified aerial phenomena” may not carry that same connotation, but it has yet to supplant UFO as the popular term for the objects.

The first congressional hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years was held last year, which declassified several reports of UAPs from the past 20 years. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), the chairman of the House Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation Subcommittee, began the House Intelligence Subcommittee meeting with a call to destigmatize UAP reporting for pilots and other military officials.

The stigma prevented many reports from being made, and since the meeting, reported UAP encounters have climbed. A report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released in 2021 found 144 unexplained UAP encounters from 2004 to 2021. On May 17, 2022, the number of reported UAP encounters climbed to around 400. But some of the encounters were historical or anecdotal, and the number may drop over time.

Despite this, the reports still bear no evidence that any section of the United States Government believes aliens are existing among us. President Biden echoed this in his February 16, 2023 address, saying there was no clear origin yet. Despite numerous claims that UFO and UAP sightings are increasing, he assured the country they are not.