In the same week that a UK industry insider told a drone conference in the US that the UK is preparing to take preliminary steps in plans that will eventually allow drones to fly in UK civil airspace, three drones on operation in Afghanistan and Somali have crashed.
On 16th August, an RQ-7 Shadow drone, which is about 12 feet long and 20 feet across, crashed into a US military cargo plane in East Afghanistan. There were no reports of injuries and the cargo plane made an emergency landing. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a US military official commentating on the drone said (with no apparent trace of irony) “We were in complete control up until the collision.”
A few days later, an unknown type of drone crashed in the middle of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. A reporter from Associated Press witnessed the wreckage before it was removed by African Union troops. The drone is suspected, but not confirmed, to be operated by the US military.
Finally a third drone crashed in the Naranj Bagh neighbourhood of the provincial capital Jalalabad in Afghanistan on 20th August, damaging two houses. Local media took pictures of the damage (above) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) acknowledged the drone was one of theirs.
I have updated our Drone Crash Database with these and eight other drone crashes for 2011 and aded details of a further five for 2010 giving a total of thirty-six large drone crashes for 2010 & 2011 (smaller drone crashes are ignored as they happen so often it would swamp the database). Overall the database now has some details of almost eighty large drone crashes since 2007, compiled from USAF accident reports, press reports and Wikileaks.
As the drone industry continues to push regulators and parlimentarians to relax the rules that currently forbid drones from flying in civil UK airspace we beleive it is important for the public and decison makers to be aware how unreliable drones are and how often they simply fall out of the sky.