Drone helicopter violates DC airspace

Navy says it lost control for more than half an hour

An unmanned helicopter drone wandered into restricted airspace in Washington, D.C., earlier this month and flew around, unguided, for more than half an hour, the Navy has confirmed.

According to a report on The Upshot, a blog on Yahoo News, the drone has a failsafe system that is supposed to land it if it loses communication with the controller. That didn't happen in this case, and the Navy eventually regained control and returned the craft to its base at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in southern Maryland.

The drone, a Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Navy Fire Scout, was on a test flight at the time. It was flying at an altitude of about 2,000 feet and was about 40 miles from Washington when operators regained control, the Navy told the New York Times. The Navy has grounded all six of its Fire Scout drones while it investigates the cause of the incident. Navy officials told the Times that it was a software issue of some sort.

The drone is 31 feet long and 10 feet tall and looks like a windowless helicopter.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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