Global Hawk Drone Crashes in Maryland

High-flying UAS crash underscores concerns with the safety of unmanned planes.

Navy Global Hawk Drone

Navy Global Hawk Drone

Navy Global Hawk Drone

The Navy lost one of its unmanned aerial systems (aka, “drones”) in a crash in Maryland on Monday. The craft crashed in a sparsely inhabited area across the Chesapeake Bay from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, where the drones are being used for training, according to the Navy.

The RQ-4A BAMS-D drone is a Navy version of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk. It has a range of greater than 10,000 miles and a ceiling of around 60,000 feet. There was no immediate explanation for the crash of the drone, but it is not the first such loss. Each Global Hawk when delivered to the armed forces has a price tag of approximately $105 million. What additional equipment the Navy adds to the craft or how much that adds to the value of the resource is classified. No one on the ground was injured in the crash.

The crash raises new concerns about Congress' ambitious escalating timetable (smaller drones first, then rapidly expanding to full-sized drones within a few years) for integrating drones into the United States National Airspace System, a timetable that few expect the FAA to be able to meet while maintaining an equivalent level of safety.