Unmanned Helicopter Crashes Into Navy Ship

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An unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter crashed into the side of USS Charleston shortly after taking off from the ship on Monday. No one was injured in the incident, but U.S. Navy officials reported that the aircraft fell into the water and was not recovered. The crash occurred at approximately 3:40 p.m. local time.

“The mishap damaged a safety net on the ship and struck the hull,” the U.S. Third Fleet said in a statement. “Damage to the ship is being assessed, but appears limited to an area above the waterline. Charleston continues operations in the Western Pacific.”

The aircraft was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, which is based out of California’s Naval Air Station North Island. The cause of the accident is under investigation. The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout is a vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) measuring 31.7 feet long.

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18 COMMENTS

        • That’s quite a good joke. Probably similar to the “Airplane passenger travel will end after the first fatality” that someone no doubt said more than a century ago, when quite recent memory has us accepting hundreds of deaths a year from piloted flights.

        • While Richard is correct in that the public does tolerate routine deaths in some activity areas, particularly automotive, my observation is that in general today’s public is much more sensitive to deaths involving any sort of new technology, or for that matter related to any sort of change in general.

          And statistics don’t seem to matter in the public’s evaluation of risk; it’s a reaction on an emotional level. Seven bad reactions out of two million shots? No way I’m taking that thing!

      • Jim,
        Nothing is new; remote pilotless aircraft date back to at least 80 years or so. The problem is increased numbers and liability. Good luck finding liability if a “pilotless” air vehicle takes out your house or car or family member.

    • “Pilot error” is a mischaracterized accident category as it involves a wide spectrum of operations (planning, inspection, fueling, piloting, weather interpretation), compared to a simple cause like engine failure.

      Thinking that drones will erase all those operational accident causes is incorrect, and would be less flexible.

  1. It will be interesting when and if the navy is able to recover this VTUAV if it has any retrievable data that can help the investigation. Presuming a black box isn’t required on board military aircraft, perhaps the datastream was recorded and sufficient for review without the uav. At the least, the preflight procedures and extensive checkout of the entire uav prior to each flight may reveal any shortcomings.