Civil drones join military drones falling from the skies

Reaper-crashAs regular readers will know, Drone Wars UK tracks crashes of the larger type II and III military UAVs in our Drone Crash Database (details of UAV classifications here).  We have just updated our list with a further six crashes during 2013, including military drone crashes in the US, Israel, Mali and Afghanistan. Although the crash of a US military target drone in Florida received much media attention again this is of a type we do not record in our database.

In September it was reported that the USAF is to relocate its armed Predator drones away from Camp Lemonnier – located next to the Djibouti international airport – to an airfield 10km away due to fears over more drone crashes.  At least five USAF Predator drones have crashed in Djibutoti since 2011.

So far our database contains details of 12 drone crashes in 2013.  This is down somewhat on the same time for the past  two-year although this is likely to change when the USAF (eventually) updates its aircraft mishaps website.

Since the last update of the drone crash database there have been a number of crashes of smaller civil drones being reported in the media.  We do not include the smaller class of drones (under 150kg) in the database as they crash so often it would swamp the database.  However  the growing number of civil drones crashing does indicates the civilian use of drones is increasing.

In August a small drone filming a bull run in Virginia crashed into a crowd of spectators injuring several people (see video below).

In September  the Pirate Party flew a drone over a political rally attended by Angela Merkel where the drone crashed (according to some reported ‘performed an emergency landing’) in front of her, while in October two drone crashes received attention – one crashed into Sydney Harbour Bridge and across the other side of the world one crashed into the sidewalk in Manhattan.

Across the US and in Europe there is growing concern about the privacy and civil liberties implication of opening up civil airspace to drones.  Now with the growing number of civil UAV crashes as well as military UAV crashes, it would seem that the drone industry has a long way to go to convince regulators that drones can be flown safely and responsibly.

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