Drone crashes mount at civilian airports

From The Washington Post:  Posted by Hostman (ATC Specialist) 12/1/12

Opening Scene: ....  He sent the unarmed MQ-9 Reaperdrone off without permission from the control tower. A minute later, he yanked the wrong lever at his console, killing the engine without realizing why.

 As he tried to make an emergency landing, he forgot to put down the wheels. The $8.9 million aircraft belly-flopped on the runway, bounced and plunged into the tropical waters at the airport’s edge, according to a previously undisclosed Air Force accident investigation report.

The drone crashed at a civilian airport that serves a half-million passengers a year, most of them sun-seeking tourists. No one was hurt, but it was the second Reaper accident in five months — under eerily similar circumstances.

“I will be blunt here. I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,’ ” an Air Force official at the scene told investigators afterward. He added: “You go, ‘How stupid are you?’ ”

The April wreck was the latest in a rash of U.S. military drone crashes at overseas civilian airports in the past two years. The accidents reinforce concerns about the risks of flying the robot aircraft outside war zones, including in the United States.

A review of thousands of pages of unclassified Air Force investigation reports, obtained by The Washington Post under public-records requests, shows that drones flying from civilian airports have been plagued by setbacks.

Among the problems repeatedly cited are pilot error, mechanical failure, software bugs in the “brains” of the aircraft and poor coordination with civilian air-traffic controllers.

On Jan. 14, 2011, a Predator drone crashed off the Horn of Africa while trying to return to an international airport next to a U.S. military base in Djibouti. It was the first known accident involving a Predator or Reaper drone near a civilian airport. Predators and Reapers can carry satellite-guided missiles and have become the Obama administration’s primary weapon against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Since then, at least six more Predators and Reapers have crashed in the vicinity of civilian airports overseas, including other instances in which contractors were at the controls.

The mishaps have become more common at a time when the Pentagon and domestic law-enforcement agencies are pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. civil airspace to surveillance drones.

The FAA permits drone flights only in rare cases, citing the risk of midair collisions. The Defense Department can fly Predators and Reapers on training and testing missions in restricted U.S. airspace near military bases.

The pressure to fly drones in the same skies as passenger planes will only increase as the war in Afghanistan winds down and the military and CIA redeploy their growing fleets of Predators and Reapers. Last year, the military began flying unarmed Reapers from a civilian airport in Ethiopia to spy in next-door Somalia.


  • XC Triker

    Someone sent me this drone email below (kinda teasing me & knowing I'd have a "reactive" response)-- thought I'd share with all (my response first):

    I'm sorry, but that's a stupid idea ;)  Deliver BOOKS by tiny airplane drone to ?Kids?  !!!???  I see them crashing into buildings (like the one that crashed into your bridge in the article), falling on people, chopping off eager kids fingers, at $2.99 per delivery they're going to have to be on a cheap budget (read: poor maintenance), forced to fly in bad weather (which is why commercial use is usually banned, because when $$ are on the line, people make stupid decisions of conditions to fly in.  Private RCs are not as regulated therefore), what if my book is on the other side of the airport (you think these things are going to fly a long way around our airport??),   etc, etc .....   

    and, most of all, we can deliver better books, faster and cheaper ELECTRONICALLY for gosh sakes!!!!  ;)

    Oh, wait, let's deliver BLOOD by air  --   Oh yeah, because when $$ and human life are on the line, I really want the damn thing crashing into a building in swirly city winds and splattering me with someone else's body fluids !!!

    What a stupid freaking idea!!!

    Thanks for the email  ;)


    I know how much you love drones XC:

    Thought you might find this interesting. Not sure what the drone scene's like in the states, however, their visibility's just starting to pick up here....


    Wonder if we'll ever see the day of pilot-less cargo aircraft (don't think we're ready for passenger just yet)...?


  • Kim

    GREAT response XC Triker.  I could not agree more, especially with your note to NASA.....Kim

  • white eagle

    Well let me say my concerns are as follows .with all the latest technology and more sophisticated survalence cameras all over the place phone info gathering.it is now proven ill say it again proven they can turn on your cell camera listen without you turning on your phone and get this they can even take command of your car if new from the computer.drones in our skys.now i will say this iam law abiding if it is just.i believe that freedom should have dicipline.uncontrolled freedom can mean chaos.i dont tote around an ar 15
    Or threaten others to get my way.i also believe in security and just uncorupted law enforcement
    But i also believe that our founding fathers warned that delivering to much
    Power to the government was a danger to the people
    It intrusts .do we really know who and what power or ideas are behind all this.
    And even if its not corrupt now what about an incumbant.who so ever forgets the past is deadicated to relive it (gen patton) who so ever sacrifices there freedoms for security deserves niether( ben franklin)
    I envite anyone to read the doctrins of chief seattle

  • white eagle

    Well i guess i didnt really relate to the article.so i might add that as corperations using our airspace for drones delivering blood pizza .yes very bad idea.i have enough trouble understanding air space and jetways could you imagine having to duck through pizza 'book or blood airspace.

  • XC Triker

    Poll:  Who Wants Drones in their Airspace?  Voice your opinion, see what others think!

  • XC Triker

    Got these responses privately, but they're good to share (I think he got my post and Dave/White Eagles posts slightly mixed up... but same idea anyway):

    No problems Dave. Well responded.

    I hate the damn things. Australian regulations will be those adopted from the FAA. US regulators have farmed this out to the FAA and missed the privacy angle completely. We've got activists legally flying over other people's property, filming around farms looking for breaches of standards. It's just a whole bowl of wrong... At least in the US there's the commercial ban in place - it's something.


    ps - trying to erase the mental image of blood pizza oozing off the side of building....


    This one's a bit like the last - informational, not intended to provoke. Just wanting to keep you informed.

    Drone Crash Florida July 2013


    And a reasonable analysis of the Australian landscape... :-)

    There was also an Australian ABC (4 Corners) program called "Rise of the machines". Have seen a version on you tube, but can't seem to relocate it ATM. It's well worthwhile



  • XC Triker

    Ok, well, here's a little more food for thought (I agree on the privacy thing totally), but let's focus on delivery by drone:

    1. Most efficient transport fuel/mile/ton:  Water borne ship!  Next, Rail.  Next Truck......   Least- AIR!!!  It just costs more per ton delivered to beat the air into submission to lift said object.
    2. Safest/most reliable:  I would guess  in the same order as efficiency (right?)
    3. Quickest?  OK, maybe air is quicker per unit, but not per mass/bulk.  Besides, in the book delivery scenario maybe it is only 20 minutes from base to student, but the base still has to wait for Amazon or whoever to deliver said book to them (days) ... so why not have Amazon deliver direct to student and skip the middle drone?      Blood delivery-- just stupid.  The hospital has plenty of blood their in its refrigerators.  The hospital doesn't need single units of blood on a moments notice, even rare types-  rare types get O Negative (in an emergency), or pre-donate before a surgery.  Donate to keep the banks full, don't send in unreliable drones.  If the hospital does need blood fast (bus full of hemophiliacs on an outing crashes), then they need a very reliable way of getting a large amount delivered (not a little drone)-  Maybe a helicopter
    4. Does your car GPS give you the right directions all the time?  How many articles do you read on people getting lost (stranded) because of bad directions?   How 'bout this recent article I posted "Apple Maps Cause Drivers to Cross Active Runway"  Envision the Miracle on the Hudson river, except not geese being sucked into engines--  mal-programmed drones getting sucked into engines when the cross in front of aircraft!
    5. Drones are cheaper because humans aren't involved-- or maybe cheap humans (teenagers) are responsible for several.   OK .....  yeah, that's what I want, no human oversighte and a blood pizza on my windshield.
    6. Drones put REAL pilots out of a job!

    I could drone on about why this is a bad idea ....  ;)


  • Ken

    Two Video responses for you ... watch them in order!

    and then .... jump to 9:04

    Sabotage by the dominoes guys perhaps?

  • Admin

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  • Ken


  • XC Triker

    The "Anonymous Triker" sent more to my email here.  I say, let's get this all out in the open:

    Amnisty International's view of drone attacks - informational only...



    But I support their conclusions and Ed Snowdon's stance....



    [XC's note:  I support Ed Snowden as well ... oh shit, the NSA is going to mark me now,  you know what, I'm sure I was already on their list (as is Ken, as are most of us)....   Close your eyes ....  F&CK YOU NSA !!!!  Is that clear enough for your anti-Democratic spying activities  (sorry everyone else had to see that)]

  • XC Triker

    This article starts off with THIS quote...    "UAV hobbyist fights FAA fine
    Unmanned aerial vehicle hobbyist Raphael Pirker is fighting a $10,000 fine levied against him by the Federal Aviation Administration in a case seen as a test of the burgeoning commercial UAV industry, which is awaiting rules by the FAA on flying the unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. "[UAVs] have an outstanding safety record and most of them are made small and light enough to be safe to use around people, unlike manned aircraft or other tools that drones are looking to replace," Pirker said" 

    I could only imagine the article went downhill from there ...