Army team from Alabama investigating drone crash

Members of the 55th Brigade Special Troops Battalion’s Unmanned Aerial Systems team conduct safety checks prior to launching an RQ-7 Shadow during a training exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap on Aug. 1, 2013. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania National Guard

A team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., is at Fort Indiantown Gap investigating last week’s drone crash in Union Township.

Teams from the center conduct investigations any time there is an crash involving Army aircraft, said Pennsylvania National Guard spokesman Staff Sgt. Matt Jones.

“They immediately responded as soon as there was word of the crash,” Jones said. “They immediately sent a team here. That’s typical protocol for them to do that in response to any aircraft crash in the Army.”

Efforts to reach a spokesperson at the center were unsuccessful.

An unmanned drone operated by Pennsylvania Army National Guard soldiers crashed on Fisher Avenue near Lickdale Elementary School about 3:15 p.m. on April 3. The crash occurred about 20 minutes after the school’s 2:55 p.m. dismissal.

The drone was being controlled by a remote operator at nearby Fort Indiantown Gap and was part of a training exercise, Guard officials said. The craft experienced “a hard landing” and was run over by a vehicle on Fisher Avenue, destroying the craft.

No one was injured.

The vehicle, known as an RQ-7 Shadow, weighs 375 pounds, is approximately 11 feet long and has a wing span of 14 feet. The drone cost about $125,000, Jones said.

Prior to the crash, Jones said the Guard had 12 of the Shadow crafts – three four-aircraft systems.

“Each of our combat brigades has one system,” he said.

Jones was not sure if the Guard is planning to replace the destroyed craft.

The aircraft are used primarily for reconnaissance and are not capable of supporting weapons, Jones said.

“It’s equipped with a camera, so it’s only used for reconnaissance,” he said. “No weaponry.”

The drones are based at a small airfield at the east end of Gap near Quartermaster Road, not too far from the school. The Shadows are launched from a launching system and land at the airfield.

In addition to Shadows, the Guard also has about 150 smaller Raven unmanned aerial vehicles. Ravens are hand-launched by soldiers essentially throwing them like footballs, Jones said.

The Gap is the only place in the state soldiers train with either drone, Jones said.

“Both of them are used for surveillance, but we don’t actually do any surveillance here,” he said. “They don’t save any of their video. There’s no surveillance being done, just training over the installation.”

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