CNN spreads some love

MQ-9 Reaper

Not sure this is right at all.

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

When the highly classified RQ-170 Sentinel drone crashed in Iran recently, there were many questions about how this could happen. Then, a few days later, a Predator drone crashed on the island nation of Seychelles. Are drones falling out of the sky?

These recent high-profile crashes of U.S. drones raise questions about the reliability of the crucial unmanned aircraft.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have about the same mishap rate as the F-16 manned fighter jet did at a comparable stage of development, according to retired Lt. Gen David Deptula, who ran the Air Force drone program until he left the service in 2010.

An Air Force chart obtained by CNN confirms Deptula’s assessment, showing as flight time increases, mishap rates for drones drop, just like they do for the piloted F-16 and F-22 fighter jets.

When looking at the total number of flight hours, the mishap rates for “Predators (MQ-1s) are a bit higher,” said Deptula. “Reapers (MQ-9s) and Global Hawks (RQ-4) are a bit lower.”

Predator drones fly at medium to high altitudes and were initially designed for gathering intelligence. They have since been modified to carry munitions such as Hellfire missiles.

Reapers are similar to Predators and carry Hellfire missiles, but they are larger and more powerful. Up to three times faster than the Predator, Reapers are designed to go after time-sensitive targets, according to the Air Force.

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Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.