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NTSB Cites Lax Safety Controls, Pilot Error in Ariz. Drone Crash

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; Page A05

Sophisticated computer systems on a 10,000-pound unmanned drone were no match for its pilot’s failure to follow a checklist when confronted with a computer glitch.

The mistake set off a chain of events that led the $6.5 million Predator-B to smash into the Arizona desert near Nogales, Ariz., the National Transportation Safety Board concluded yesterday. The NTSB also cited poor oversight by Customs and Border Protection officials as a factor in the April 2006 crash.

. . . Steven R. Chealander, a board member and former Air Force pilot, said that regulators and operators need to ensure that proper procedures are followed in drone operations because pilots may not realize the consequences of their actions if they are not in a cockpit. “You have to change the mind-set from someone operating a computer Game Boy to being the pilot of an aircraft,” Chealander said.



55 of these drones are currently authorized by the FAA and it will be interesting to see how life changes as that number moves to 55,000 and then inevitably 550,000.

They are too useful to remain limited for long.

But man, that airspace up there is certainly getting crowded.

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