More than 400 large US military drones have crashed around the world in the past 13 years, a Washington Post investigation has found.
The Post obtained documents detailing accidents including collisions with homes, farms, runways, roads, waterways and even an air force transport plane in midair. Several drones vanished while at cruising altitude and were lost.
In April, an army drone crashed next to an elementary-school playground in Pennsylvania; in 2012 an unmanned navy surveillance aircraft nose-dived and ignited a wildfire in Maryland.
Of the 418 major drone crashes since September 2001 that the newspaper identified, about half happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly a quarter were in the US. Almost 200 of the crashes were classed by the military as “class A”, meaning they destroyed the aircraft or caused at least $2 million worth of damage, though no loss of life was attributed to the accidents. Problems included pilot error, mechanical failure and communications challenges.
Though unmanned aircraft have long been used by the US military in overseas operations and by US border patrol, their safety is of particular concern as they are set to become a common feature of civilian life in America within a couple of years…
Congress told the Federal Aviation Administration to come up with a plan allowing commercial drones access to US airspace by September 2015, but the agency is unlikely to meet that deadline given the complexity of drafting safety regulations.
I’m only addressing the question of small civilian drones.
Think of all the things that can go wrong just because amateurs are farting around with devices that can get into real trouble. In most states, RC planes are controlled by state and local regulations. There are limitations to how and when and where they can be flown.
Right now, it’s legally a hobby. One I might even enjoy myself. But, I don’t think the wildlife and especially the raptors and snakes we specialize in watching in the bosque would appreciate the more-or-less-synchronized noise of several small-displacement rotors buzzing over their turf while they try to live a normal day hunting for their next meal.
There are beaucoup useful and productive tasks small unmanned vehicles can accomplish. The same is true for casual or professional creative work. Licensed, insured, flown by operators of proven ability. Keep on rocking in the Free World.