While the drone industry regularly boasts about the spectacular rise in the use of unmanned drones (see this report of the latest drone lobby gathering as an example) their silence on the number of drones plummeting back to earth with a bang is almost deafening.
Our drone crash database contains some details of over 90 drone crashes since 2007 and we have now added details of five more large military drones that have crashed since the beginning of 2012. We have also added details of a previously unreported US Predator drone crash in Djibouti in March 2011 which has only now been revealed by USAF military accidents reports (other drone crashes in Djibouti have previously been reported). Of course many other smaller drones will have crashed, but the drone crash database concentrates on the larger Class II and Class III drones) (see here for a general guide to drone sizes)
So far this year, in January a US military drone crashed in Eastern Afghanistan while a large Israeli Heron drone crashed spectacularly during a test flight in Israel. In February US military drones crashed in Somalia and in North West Pakistan while a Indian military drone also crashed on a test flight in Visakhapatnam.
The crash of police drone into a police armoured car in Texas in October 2011 – which received much press coverage when it was recently revealed earlier this month– did not make it in to our database as the drone concerned is too small.
We have also been updated our database with missing information about previous drone crashes from updates to USAF accident reports. As well as the previously unknown Predator drone crash in Djibouti in March 2011, Somali press reports of a drone crash in Mogadishu in August 2011 have been confirmed by an inclusion of a Predator drone crash on USAF Accident reports list. Two drone crashes in our database now have locations as US drone crashes on 3 Jan 2011 and 14 Jan 2011 have now been listed as taking place in Kandahar and Gulf of Aden respectively.
As the industry and their lobbyists press ahead with plans to open up civil airspace to unmanned drones, the amount of drone crashes deserves more attention and investigation. The drone industry itself should be worrying at least as much about safety as they do about their profits.