Washington Post investigation - When drones fall from the sky

An interesting investigation into 400 crashes by military drones:

More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation.

Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Read the rest here.

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Comment by Joe Frazier on June 21, 2014 at 12:09pm

Just goes to show that the military shouldn't be flying drones. ;-)

Comment by ikrase on June 21, 2014 at 4:17pm
This is probably not going to be representative of civilian drones.

Comment by Hugues on June 22, 2014 at 1:30am

If there were so few as 400 military human casualties in the same countries as this study took for drones, I think the media would celebrate instead of depicting an over negative result. So why not celebrate this too for drones ?

Comment by Quadzimodo on June 22, 2014 at 10:05am
Nice interactive infographic.

It is interesting to note that the RQ-170 lost over Iran was obviously not destroyed and certainly didn't appear to have been able to cause anything like $2M USD in damages. Yet it is included in statistics for Class A incidents that destroyed the aircraft or caused (by current standards) at least $2million worth in damage. I guess, in this case, a value has perhaps been placed on the technology acquired by Iran.

I can't think of a single type of drone that has is not represented here to have been lost in hostile territory. Which begs the question - Is the Taranis inevitably destined to join this list? It is concerning to consider the technology (and payload) that might be lost should this come to pass.
Comment by Bill Patterson on June 22, 2014 at 10:31am

Nice math.

138+50+5+1>400. Hmmmm.

Looks more like 194 to me. 

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 22, 2014 at 9:33pm

Here's a link to the second part of this Washington Post investigation.


Comment by James Daniel on June 23, 2014 at 8:54am

I really wish the media \ FAA \ general public would start to categorize this stuff better. The average Joe will see this article and say "See how dangerous these things are, the FAA must do all it can to keep these things from falling on me and my family". What needs to be clarified here is what exactly these UAVs are, these are multi-million dollar (some instances hundreds of millions of dollars) full sized aircraft, carrying dangerous ordinance in war-zones. This isn't me and my 5lbs foam wing or my homebuilt quad copter with a GoPro strapped to it.  Once again the media, spews off its sensationalism, and then moves on to the next scare topic, without taking 30 minutes to research or designate what these things actually are, and conversely what the average small business owner will be actually using in a commercial UAV capacity. I mean the smallest aircraft on this list is the Shadow with a 14 ft wingspan and a max takeoff weight of 375lbs. The largest being the Global Hawk with a 131 ft wingspan and max takeoff weight of 32,000lbs. (my numbers came from a quick wikipedia search of each of the aircraft listed in the study.)

BTW the Shadow had only one listed incident.

Comment by Philip Giacalone on June 23, 2014 at 5:17pm

Here is part 3 of this continuing report by the Washington Post. This part discusses the growing number of near misses between small drones and real aircraft. 


This is the scariest part of the exploding success of the drone hobby. It is by far the most serious threat to human life and puts the hobby at risk of heavy regulation, imo. The number of pilots doing extremely dangerously things with small drones is growing and putting air traffic at risk. The facts speak for themselves, with many illegal drone flights posted on youtube. Aside from being insanely dangerous, how stupid is that?! 

It seems that many drone enthusiasts are in denial about the growing safety risks and the need for regulation. That's completely understandable. This hobby is fun and the growth, potential, and success is exciting. And most of us try to follow the rules and fly safely. But the hobby could soon see some heavy regulation due to actions of a few 'bad actors'. God willing, these regulations won't come about because human lives are lost. Hopefully they will come before the tragedies and will help to avoid them. 

People will argue that regulation is not needed. Others will say that this is government overreach or just hype by the press. But step away from your love of the hobby and look at the facts and the situation realistically for a moment. An increasing danger to the public is not an acceptable option either. 

Comment by Bill Patterson on June 23, 2014 at 6:26pm
I guess UFOs are out of vogue. Now everything is a "drone". Flying trash cans and all.


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