On Monday afternoon, during a test flight in the closed airspace of the military air field at Weelde (North of Belgium) a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS or drone) has lost contact with its ground station. The crew has immediately followed the safety procedures. The system itself contains several safety procedures to perform an emergency landing when contact is lost. However, these craft has not performed this. With the transponder of the drone the military Air Traffic Control was able to continue locating it at all times. ATC has started the emergency procedure, including the mobilisation of military aircrafts to escort the drone. The drone has landed in a field in the North of France, where the local authorities have secured it. Fortunately, the drone has not caused any damage. VITO has been and still is in close contact with Belgian and French authorities to safeguard the operation.
It was not the first flight of this drone, nor of the experienced crew. The Belgian authorities perform a risk analysis for each aircraft, for which VITO has provided all information. Once the French authorities release the craft, the experts of VITO, the producer and the authorities can look into the possible cause. Until everything is fully cleared, VITO will no longer use this type of drone, of which it possesses 2 crafts.