RQ-11 Raven was on a protection mission for a nearby Army base
by COREY HUTCHINS
UPDATE: “Drone that crashed in Colorado Springs found to have broken Army, FAA rules,” Sept. 19, 2015.
UPDATE: Aug. 17, 2015. About three months after initially saying “Fort Carson is conducting an investigation and will share results as soon as they are available,” base spokeswoman Dani Johnson says, “Please request the results of the investigation through FOIA.”
UPDATE: July 7, 2015, nearly two months later: “The incident is still under investigation.” — Fort Carson spokeswoman Dani Johnson
UPDATE: June 11, 2015, one month later: “The investigation is still ongoing into this situation.” — Fort Carson spokeswoman Dani Johnson
It sounds like the opening scene of some dystopian film set in the near future. A man working on a water heater outside in his yard looks over to see a small military drone crashed in the dirt, colored lights flashing, the tail section squirming around — and a mounted camera lens moving back and forth.
That’s what happened this week to Ronald Fisk, who lives about 12 miles from Fort Carson, one of five military installations in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The rogue drone that crash-landed in his yard was an RQ-11 Raven unmanned aerial vehicle that had lost communication with its operator at the local Army base while flying on a protection mission. The vehicle eventually made its way downtown to Fisk’s leafy neighborhood where it dropped from the sky.
The Colorado Springs Gazette called the incident “the first reported use of a drone to protect an area military installation.”
Fisk found the white, four-pound device scattered on his property midday on May 12. It looked like a model airplane. He spent 10 years in the military himself, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was.
“This was definitely very expensive. It was commercial or military,” he told War Is Boring in an interview Friday near the crash site. “What I thought was unusual was that it had no military markings other than a stenciled number on it. There was no Air Force or Army insignias on it or anything.”
The camera lens on the little drone was still moving, so Fisk did the logical thing you do when you find a downed spy plane in your yard. “I wrote my phone number on a piece of paper and held it front of the camera thinking someone may be watching,” he said.
When no one called, Fisk dialed the local police who came and collected the downed unmanned aircraft. A local TV station heard about it on the police scanner and showed up before the military, Fisk said.
He was at the hardware store when representatives from Fort Carson eventually came to his home to take some pictures and thank the family for returning the $35,000 drone.
“They just said we want to assure you that there was no radiation or anything that you guys could get hurt from, and that we assure you that we weren’t spying on you,” said Ronald’s wife Sue. “And I said, I don’t think so, if you were, there’s not too much you could spy on.”
Fort Carson isn’t responding to inquiries about the drone crash beyond a brief statement, a base spokesperson said.
The drone was in compliance with all FAA regulations and “flying in support of increased force protection measures on Fort Carson,” when it “lost communications with the operator,” a statement prepared by Fort Carson spokesperson Dani Johnson reads in part.
She said the base is investigating and will share results when they have them.
That isn’t much more than what military representatives told the Fisks at their home. The drone probably just got out of control, Sue Fisk said the military told her.
“I’m sure the guy who lost their $35,000 drone got a talking to,” chuckled her husband. “I can’t imagine being that guy.”
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