Army investigating collision of two unmanned aircraft

Gary Brodeur, Special to the Daily Press

EL MIRAGE • Army officials are investigating after two remotely piloted aircraft collided on the runway in El Mirage, causing damage to both pricey planes.

The unmanned aerial vehicles were of different variations operated by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, a U.S. Army spokesman said in an email. The enhanced Predator-type UAVs were undergoing individual flight tests at El Mirage Flight Test Facility on July 25, he said.

“There was some damage to both aircraft in this procedural incident,” Army spokesman Randy Tisor said. “Army officials are investigating to ensure that all appropriate actions are taken to prevent future incidents.”

An MQ-1C reconnaissance model undergoing General Atomics pilot training and an MQ-1C Gray Eagle capable of being armed, which was going through acceptance training, made contact on an active runway, according to the statement.

Although the extent of damage was undisclosed, each UAV is worth $6 million to $8 million, according to one estimate.

On the same day the collision occurred, General Atomics announced the Gray Eagle system’s successful completion of 10,000 automated take-offs and landings as of June 2.

The official Army News Service noted in a June 27 report that the Gray Eagle program was being delivered under budget but the reliability of the unmanned aircraft system — vehicle and ground control package — “is not where it could be.”

However, that UAS is delivering a high degree of capability to the Army, the program’s executive officer said in the report.

A spokeswoman for General Atomics declined to comment.