Late Monday night, Jan. 27th, a Border Patrol Drone was deliberated crashed into the ocean about 20 miles southwest of Point Loma. Its government operators decided that due to mechanical problems, the un-manned plane could not return to its base at Sierra Vista, Arizona.
The locally-made drone was on a border security mission. US Customs and Border Protection issued a statement Tuesday that read in part:
“The crew determined that the UAS would be unable to return to where it originated in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and put the aircraft down in the water. The cause of the failure is unknown.”
We now know from the Wall Street Journal via CBS8 :
“… the drone’s onboard generator failed, and the backup battery lacked the sufficient power needed to keep it in the air.”
General Atomics Aeronautical, a San Diego-based company, made the drone – that incidentally and ironically crashed about a mere 30 miles from where it was produced.
Company officials said the drone, a variant of Predator B, cost between $11 million and $12 million and is able to fly at 50,000 feet for up to 27 hours at a time. It was part of a fleet of 6 to 10 drones used by the border patrol agencies, and reportedly “has been one of the most widely used types of drones, gaining a high profile because of its role in U.S. military missions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Local CBS also spoke to a critic of the drones. Pedro Rios of the Southern Border Communities Coalition opoposes government use of drones and advocates their discontinuance. He stated:
“There are some real civil rights issues involved. What are the images they are taking? … Had there not been a place they would have crashed that was not unpopulated, we could have seen loss of life.”
Meanwhile, the remains of the drone – which broke apart upon impact – were retrieved by the Coast Guard and brought back to San Diego. And the rest of the fleet has been grounded out of “an abundance of caution,” a spokesperson said.
CBS News 8 also reported that they spoke to a drone expert who defended the use of the “highly sophisticated and monitored” aircraft. The TV report stated – without a hint of more irony – that -
” The last time a drone malfunctioned was back in November, when one struck the USS Chancellorsville as it was heading back to San Diego. Two sailors were injured as a result.
Other source: U-T San Diego