Drone helicopter violates DC airspace

Navy says it lost control for more than half an hour

An unmanned helicopter drone wandered into restricted airspace in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and flew around, unguided, for more than half an hour, the Navy has confirmed.

According to a report on The Upshot, a blog on Yahoo News, the drone has a failsafe system that is supposed to land it if it loses communication with the controller. That didn't happen in this case, and the Navy eventually regained control and returned the craft to its base at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in southern Maryland.

The drone, a Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Navy Fire Scout, was on a test flight at the time. It was flying at an altitude of about 2,000 feet and was about 40 miles from Washington when operators regained control, the Navy told the New York Times. The Navy has grounded all six of its Fire Scout drones while it investigates the cause of the incident. Navy officials told the Times that it was a software issue of some sort.

The drone is 31 feet long and 10 feet tall and looks like a windowless helicopter.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 Jack McGuire AFB

This is shocking that this drone could have been an explosive packed unmanned AC! UNCONTROLED for over 30 minutes! Is the NAVY above all flight rules. This could have been either taken over electronically or replaced w/ an umnamed Kamakazie helo. Who knows? With terrorist money almost any scenario could have happened!h the NAVY & led from bot NG should have its contracts pulled from NAVY & the failed Virginia IT system..

Fri, Aug 27, 2010 Frank Stafford

NG is on a real role. First an a drone flys over restricted space for 30 minutes unguided and out of control. Now this week, the Commonwealth of Virginia loses most of its essential IT servcies. Guess who the primary vendor is?? Answer: NG The disturbing part of all of this is that state IT director and current administration fail to turn the page and begin termination of NG contracts. It might very well be expensive, but failure to do otherwise is going to result in more catastrophic consquences. Thankfully, the misguided drone was safely retrieved. How many suffered from the failed Virginia IT system is unknown.

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