by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 11, 2012
A US Navy drone crashed in swamp land in Maryland, not far from the US capital Washington, on Monday without causing any injuries or property damage, officials said.
The Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft went down about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Washington, near Bloodsworth Island, east of the Patuxent River airfield, which is used for test flights, the Navy said.
A Navy F/A-18 fighter jet later "made visual confirmation of the crash," a statement said, adding that naval officials were investigating the cause of the crash.
Drone crashes inside the United States are rare and Monday's incident could complicate efforts by the Pentagon and other government agencies to gain approval for wider use of the unmanned aircraft to track natural disasters or criminal suspects.
In 2010, military operators briefly lost contact with an unmanned Fire Scout helicopter flying out of the same Patuxent River base. At one point commanders considered shooting down the robotic chopper as it veered into Washington's restricted air space, but communications were eventually restored.
The drone that crashed on Monday is one of five Global Hawks acquired by the Navy for maritime surveillance missions.
The unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk can fly at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet (18,288 meters) and has a wing span of about 130 feet (39 meters).
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