August 26th, 2010
01:33 AM ET

Military loses control of helicopter drone

A military test facility in southern Maryland lost control of an unmanned helicopter for about 20 minutes earlier in August before reestablishing its communications and returning it to the airfield it took off from, a U.S. Navy spokesman said.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout, a drone helicopter, took off from Webster Field at the Patuxent River Test Facilities on August 2 and lost communications during a pre-programmed flight, the spokesman said.

The aircraft traveled about 23 miles and entered National Capitol Region restricted air space, but never got closer than 40 miles to Washington.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Federal Aviation Administration were both notified of the runaway helicopter, while operators worked to regain control, the spokesman said. It took about 20 minutes to reprogram the aircraft and return it to Webster Field.

Northrop Grumman, the maker of the MQ-8B, says the aircraft "provides unprecedented situation awareness and precision targeting support for U.S. Armed Forces of the future."

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Filed under: Military
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. doregroj

    It took 20 minutes to regain control while this unmanned helicopter got within 40 miles of Washington, running uncontrolled. . The article ends by saying this aircraft "provides unprecedented situation awareness and precision targeting support for U.S. Armed Forces of the future." Somehow I think these two sentences should not go inside the same story.

    October 21, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. aaron

    Rise of the machines.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tishebov

    What is the point of such a machine anyway? It must cost far more than the best conventional chopper, but in the end it is JUST another helicopter, only without a pilot. Is it so hard to find and train good military pilots? Why such a complex, unreliable and expensive contraption?

    Looks like another scam to milk gazillions from the government.

    October 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      Same reason as UAVs. They can be used in hostile environments to transport aid and supplies without endangering a pilot.

      October 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. another John

    Back in the day, it was fairly common for Navy ships to lose contact with their DASH helicopter drones (primitive technology compared to current stuff.) Of course, this was out at sea, in the wide open spaces. Usually they could pour on the steam to chase it down, re-acquiring control when back in radio range.

    October 26, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |