A Century of Drone Crashes

This week  the USAF released an accident investigation report into the crash of a US Predator drone in Afghanistan in April 2012.  This crash brings the number of drone crashes in our updated database  to 100 (see full database here) and so we thought it a good time to do some data crunching.

Our database primarily contains details of crashes of  Class 2 and Class 3 UAVs (i.e. medium and large drones – see here for explanation of drone class and size) since January 2007.  However  there are a few occasions when small drone crashes have been included for some notable reasons (i.e. crashed with another aircraft).  We continue to maintain this database  as, although safety and reliability is a key issue in the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles, nobody appears to be publicly compiling  drone crash information.   We are not claiming that our database is complete.  Given the secretive nature of drone operations and development, it is highly likely that other drone crashes have occurred and not been publicly reported. Read more

Drone crashes continue into 2012

As the industry continues to talk up the future of the drone, there is virtual silence on drone crashes

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) Read more

Iran, Djibouti, Afghanistan, China: Drones Simply Keep Crashing

A wrecked USAF Predator MQ-1B after crashing on a training flight in Nevada in 2009

Our Drone Crash Database has been updated with the details of another thirteen drone crashes that have taken place over the past ten months,  including the crash (or ‘hijacking’ according to the Iranians) of the US stealth drone in Iran last week.  According to our database 25 large drones have crashed so far this year.  Altogether our database records some details of 90 drone crashes since January 2007. Read more

Crash!!! Its raining drones

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.” Read more

Drone Crash Database

Crashed Predator Drone

Over the past couple of months I have regularly ended blog posts by reporting that yet another military drone had crashed.  While drones are portrayed by the defence industry and many in the media as the latest ‘invincible’ super-weapon that will make us safe and secure, the reality is that they often simply fall out of the sky.

With the growing use of armed drones and the increasing pressure from some quarters to allow drones to fly in civilian airspace in the UK, the reliability and safety of drones is a key issue.   Using USAF Accident Investigation Board reports, the Wikileaks War Logs and press reports I have begun a database of drone crashes since the beginning of 2007.   I have not included crashes of the smaller UAV’s (sometimes called mini-UAVs) as the crash so often it would simply swamp the database (see this Australian article on mini-UAV crashes reported in the Wikileaks war logs which gives an idea of how often they crash!)

The database is almost certainly not complete as there is often no public notification when a UAV crashes.  If you know of drone crashes not in the database do let me know.

See the drone crash database

Crash of the Drones

This Predator drone crashed near Creech airforce base in April 2009

Today’s LA Times has an interesting article about US Predator and Reaper drone crashes compiled from Pentagon accident reports.   The article reports that  “thirty-eight Predator and Reaper drones have crashed during combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and nine more during training on bases in the U.S. — with each crash costing between $3.7 million and $5 million. Altogether, the Air Force says there have been 79 drone accidents costing at least $1 million each”.  These reports do not, of course, include details about crashes of the CIA’s Predator’s in Pakistan.

In a sign of how touchy the General Atomics, producer of the Reaper and Predator drones are about criticism of their wonderful toy, Rear Adm. Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., President of the aircraft systems group at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego is quoted in the article saying

“These airplanes are flying 20,000 hours a month, OK?  That’s a lot of flying.   Some get shot down. Some run into bad weather. Some, people do stupid things with them. Sometimes they just run them out of gas.”

According to the Air Force reports, one drone crashed into a Sunni party headquarters in Mosul which must have been embarrassing.   Another Predator drone was simply reported as ‘lost somewhere in Afghanistan’ after contact was lost and no wreckage found. 

When one of the UK’s Reapers crashed in Afghanistan in April 2008, the SAS was sent in to recover “sensitive technology” before it was blown up.  The Sun provided a helpful slideshow and report!