More military drone accidents underscore need for international safety standards

Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Internal federal documents show crashes by unmanned aerial vehicles are increasing the number of accident investigations undertaken by the military’s flight-safety branch.

The latest annual fleet airworthiness review, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law, paints a compelling portrait of how military aviation is being changed by drones.

Experts also say it underlines the need for countries and the international community to create target levels of safety for the remotely operated vehicles.

“The overall (Canadian Forces) air accident rate less Cadets and UAVs has increased compared to 2009 and remains higher than the 10-year mean,” said a July 7, 2011, briefing note for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Between 2007 and 2010, there were 10 crashes of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the airworthiness survey, dated June 10, 2011. Most the accidents involved engine failures and the majority of them happened in Kandahar during the war.

Since the Canadian military started using drones in the early 2000s, there have been 42 accidents.

Unlike crashes of manned planes, the air force has rarely acknowledged in public when one of their drones is lost. Unmanned aircraft do not make up the majority of accidents, but their increasing use has underlined an inevitability.

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