A drone recently crash-landed in a Colorado Springs neighborhood in May by some Fort Carson Soldiers. Investigations, however, revealed that these soldiers did not have proper clearance to fly the small RQ-11 Raven aircraft. They also didn’t inform key leaders at the post that they had lost the drone. As a result of these discoveries, the soldiers will undergo remedial training.
The 64-page investigation report about the May 12 incident was released by the army to the Gazette under a Freedom of Information Act request. The report shows that the 4-pound drone was flown by the post’s military police in unauthorized airspace despite the growing tension over Islamic State group threats that led to increased security at military bases nationwide.
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“Negligence in two areas contributed to the ultimate outcome,” Army investigators wrote. “Neither item appears to have contributed to the loss of control but impacted the mission management and public affairs office response to the loss of control.”
It is unknown what brought about the crashing of the drone in the yard of a home off Uintah Street in downtown Colorado Springs, 12 miles north of Fort Carson. The aircraft has a stated range of 6 miles. Investigators and experts, however, think a battery or computer problem might have contributed to the crash of the plane.
Contrary to the statements given by Ford Carson in May, investigations have revealed that flying the drone was a violation of Army regulations and Federal Aviation Administration rules concerning the use of unmanned aircraft over American lands.
Dani Johnson, Fort Carson spokeswoman, said that leaders thought they were obeying all regulations, but the violations were later found out.
Investigations also revealed that stickers weren’t put on the unmanned planes belonging to Fort Carson to identify them as properties of the Army. It was also announced that those who find lost or crashed aircraft should return them to the closest military station.
Maj. Gen Ryan Gonsalves, Fort Carson boss, ordered the people working under him to provide a report on improved plans for drone flights. The Army boss also ordered the unit of the lost drone, the 759th Military Police Battalion, to complete remedial training within a month.
From May 8 to May 12, the Battalion flew “multiple Raven aircraft” over housing areas and military facilities on the post’s north side to keep an eye on the northern perimeter of the post as part of a plan to heighten security. The area is several miles north of Fort Carson’s restricted airspace where drone flights are authorized.
Drone’s, except for some variants, are kept in restricted airspace to prevent placing manned planes and unmanned craft in the same section of sky. Flying drones in places where manned flights take place requires cleared permission from air traffic controllers. Flying over Colorado Springs isn’t exempted from this rule.
At about 2:00 p.m. that day, the drone started malfunctioning; and according to controllers, the aircraft gave faulty airspeed and compass readings—a sign that its computerized brain was malfunctioning. Controllers prepared the plane for a landing, but instead it flew north.
It was not until the next day on television that Fort Carson’s air traffic controllers knew that the drone had gone missing. A Colorado Springs resident found the plane in a tree in his yard and he called the police because he didn’t know who owned it. Police put the plane in a plastic bag and stored it in an evidence locker until it was picked up by soldiers.
Flights like this had been grounded at the post until the investigation would be concluded. Days after the incident, according to Johnson, no drones were flying from the post, but he said things could change depending on the need for improved security.