In the past few days, thousands of people have shared a dramatic video of what they believe to be the Iranian military shooting at an American drone. The footage, posted on Iranian social media channels, shows a glowing orb zipping through the night sky, seeming to dodge bursts of fluorescent gunfire. However, it turns out, the real story behind this footage is something else entirely.
The 44-second video, which was posted by an Iranian social media user on September 9, is like something out of "Star Wars". The flying orb seems to weave and dip through the air to avoid thousands of bursts of gunfire.
The video was posted by Twitter user @khaamenei_ir, with a caption saying it shows “American reconnaissance drones on the border in Saravan, Sistan and Baluchestan, last night”. Saravan is a county in Iran's southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
The account @khaamenei_ir is well-known on Iranian social media for making fun of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the tweet was almost certainly intended to be humorous. But it was picked up – with the same caption – by people outside Iran who shared it on Facebook with no indication of the source.
Where does this video really come from?
It turns out that the footage actually shows a nighttime shooting-practice session in the United States, where participants were targeting a miniature airplane.
When we were looking into the origins of this video, we got our first break when we saw a series of videos showing night-time shooting posted on Twitter by @Ufoofinterest. We realised that the “drone video” really resembled videos like the one below, which shows someone trying to shoot down a remote-controlled plane.
The France 24 Observers team reached out to several different American shooting ranges. The manager of Big Sandy Shoot, in Arizona, told us that the video in question had been filmed at his shooting range, though he wasn’t able to provide further proof.
Our team then spent several hours searching the key words “big sandy” on Instagram. We finally pulled up a video showing exactly the same scene as the original video, but filmed at a slightly different angle. This video was recorded on March 23, 2019, during an event held at the Big Sandy range.
This video doesn’t show the Iranian military shooting at an American drone. It actually shows a night-time shooting practice in Arizona, where people are firing machine guns at remote-controlled model airplanes equipped with LED lights.
To find out more about how to verify images, check out our image-verification guide.