The hunt for Bigfoot is getting serious now.
At the same time a television network is offering a $10 million bounty – guaranteed by British insurance company Lloyd’s of London – for proof of the creature’s existence, a professor in Idaho is preparing to send an unmanned drone to the skies to seek out the elusive legend.
According to an Idaho Mountain Express report and press releases from the university itself, Idaho State University Professor Jeff Meldrum, author of “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” is in the final fundraising stages of what is called “The Falcon Project,” which will use a remote-controlled aircraft to conduct flyovers in what he calls “Bigfoot territory.”
“These unmanned drones, I believe, are the next step in proving the nature of these creatures,” said Meldrum.
“The aircraft will offer stealth and maneuverability, allowing us to peer directly down through the forest canopy,” Meldrum explained through a university news report. “It is essentially silent and can fly at considerable altitude, surveying the forest floor from the night sky, allowing us to track and photograph a target once it is identified, without disturbing it.
“The Falcon Project takes the search for sasquatch to the next level,” he continued. “Aerial survey with coordinated on-the-ground verification has potential to conclusively identify sasquatch and furthermore facilitate a more penetrating investigation into the nature of this mysterious species.”
The Idaho Mountain Express reports Meldrum is often consulted in cases of sightings and has interviewed countless eyewitnesses, but was particularly excited by a by a group of high school students from Pocatello, Idaho, who were working on an erosion project in May 2012 when they spotted something in the nearby woods.
“There’s a dude watching us,” one teen said, swinging his camera over to try to intimidate the “stalker” in an area called Elk Meadows.
A fast-moving shadow figure resembling the original sasquatch is then seen disappearing into dense woods:
"It just didn't really look human-like," one of the students said later. "I don't really know what that is; it's not a bear, it's not a moose or anything. It was big and bulky and black. I'm not going to say, 'Yes, it was a Bigfoot,' or, 'No, it wasn't,' because I don't know, and nobody knows."
"It nevertheless is a large, dark figure that bears a striking resemblance to descriptions of sasquatch," Meldrum told a local news station.
Now he hopes the Falcon Project will provide more evidence.
Meldrum's planned search comes at a time when "Bigfoot fever" is at a high.
A YouTube video a reported Bigfoot sighting publicized by the Legend Tracker smart phone app from PlayMobility has seen press coverage this week on FoxNews.com, London's Daily Mail and the Sun, among other outlets.
Footage allegedly captured by hikers on a trail near Mission, in Canada's British Columbia, reveals a dark, man-like creature moving on a ridge in the distance:
So are these sightings evidence of an undiscovered species, or simply hoaxes and mistaken identity, as skeptics claim?
Spike TV is hoping increased attention on the legend, advances in technology and a pile of cash can finally answer the question through their upcoming reality series "10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty."
"When you first hear about Bigfoot, the gut reaction is, 'Oh, it can't be real, or people would have found Bigfoot by now,' but there's only six percent of nearly two billion acres of land in the [United States] that's considered developed, so there's all kinds of unexplored areas," said Chris Rantamaki, the senior vice president of original series at Spike TV. "Every single year, there are more than 15,000 new species discovered, and it wasn't until 150 years ago that gorillas were even scientifically classified. So there's a lot of undiscovered universe."
Rantamaki told Yahoo! TV that there will be no room for questioning the winner if someone does indeed snag the big prize on "10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty," as the substantiation needed to win $10 million includes both photographic evidence and DNA evidence "that has been sequenced and proved to be from an unknown primate."
"What better way to find out [if Bigfoot really exists] than to throw the latest, cutting-edge science behind this; find the best Bigfoot-hunting teams possible, including big-game hunters, serious hunters, and people who have been looking for Bigfoot for many, many years; and then put a $10 million dollar bounty on finding out the truth?" Rantamaki asked. "We just thought it was a helluva fun idea."
But don't expect to have your questions about Bigfoot answered right away. Rantamaki told Yahoo! TV that if one the show's teams does find proof of Bigfoot, keeping it a secret is "an absolute must" until the TV show reveals it to the world.
The one-hour reality series, "10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty," is scheduled to be hosted by actor Dean Cain and premiere January 2014 on Spike TV.