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13 Nov, 2013 07:58

Drone flights suspended in NY after crash

Drone flights suspended in NY after crash

Reaper drone flights have been grounded in Central New York after one of the craft crashed into Lake Ontario. The incident has sparked debate among activists who claim the Reaper is among the most accident prone of drones and should be decommissioned.

US officials at the 174th Attack Wing announced the suspension of all Reaper flights on Tuesday as a precautionary measure, following a crash about 19 kilometers from the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. As of yet the Coast Guard have been unable to salvage the $4 million unmanned craft because of poor weather conditions.

“We have no reports of injuries or damages to civilian property at this time,” said Colonel Greg Semmel of the 174th Attack Wing to press, adding that no weapons or hazardous material were onboard the remotely-control plane at the time of the crash.

He said that it had not been decided when drone flights would be resumed in the Central New York area.

The unmanned Reaper craft is one of the staples of the US military and is in use in Afghanistan and Pakistan for both surveillance and military strikes. The Reaper is larger than the better-known Predator drone, with a wingspan of 66 feet and the capacity to carry Hellfire missiles as well as other armaments.

There have been a number of reports of accidents involving Reapers since they have been in use on American territory. A survey carried out by Bloomberg in 2012 revealed that there had been 129 accidents documented over the past 15 years involving the Reaper as well as the MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.

They calculated that on average there were 9.31 accidents for every 100,000 hours of drone flight.

Anti-drone activists have capitalized on the statistics and slammed the use of the remotely-controlled planes on US territory.

Ed Kinane a Syracuse-based peace activist told syracuse.com that this latest crash was another reason why the use of drones should be discontinued.

“One of the notorious things about drones and Reapers is their high accident rate,” Kinane said. “A general concern is that because the military is so in love with drones and the Reaper, it appears they have rushed these things into production.”

In spite of opposition to the craft, the US government has put forward a plan to widely expand the use of drones in the US by 2015.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented their plan of expansion on Thursday last week at an aerospace news conference.

"We recognize that the expanding use of unmanned aircraft presents great opportunities, but it's also true that integrating these aircraft presents significant challenges," Reuters quoted FAA Administrator Michael Huerta as saying. He added that US aviation regulations and safety rules would remain a “gold standard” for the rest of the world “to maintain our position of global leadership.”