Navy Unmanned Drone Crashes on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, $186 Million Burns

Jun 11, 2012 6:20pm

A nearly $200 million U.S. Navy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed during a test flight Monday in an unpopulated  marshy area of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  No one  was hurt in the crash nor was there any property damage, according to Navy officials.

Known as a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D), the 44-foot-long drone crashed near Bloodsworth Island in Dorchester, Maryland about 22 miles east of the Patuxent Naval Air Station where it had taken off.   A Navy statement said the crash occurred at 12:11 p.m.

The BAMS-D is a testing version of a jet-powered high altitude aircraft, the Navy’s version of the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is designed to provide long-term surveillance and reconnaissance. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office estimated that the Navy’s batch of 70 BAMS cost $13 billion, more than $186 million each.

The U. S. Coast Guard had set up a safety perimeter around the scene shortly after the crash.  In its statement, the Navy said “cleanup of the site is underway [and] Navy officials are investigating the cause of the crash.”

Aerial footage of the crash scene taken by local news affiliates showed fires still smoldering in the wreckage.  There was little visible that could identify that what had crashed was a UAV.

The aircraft was one of five aircraft acquired from the Air Force Global Hawk program.  The Navy statement said the UAV has been “developing tactics and doctrine for the employment of high-altitude unmanned patrol aircraft since November 2006. ”

The unmanned craft have been flown in the Middle East region to provide maritime surveillance.   The Navy said the BAMS-D provides more than 50 percent of overhead maritime surveillance in the region and “has flown more than 5,500 combat hours in support of combat operations since 2008.”

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