A Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV
strayed into restricted airspace above Washington DC after departing Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland on August 2, the result of a software logic flaw that caused the operator to momentarily lose contact with the drone. Programmed to circle when communications are severed, the chopper failed to follow its failure protocol, instead heading twenty-three miles on a north/northwest trajectory -- which could have had serious consequences had it been equipped with 70mm Hydra rocket pods or Hellfire tankbuster missiles. Although this type of incident is rare, it is not unheard of: last September the Air Force had to take down an MQ-9 Reaper
in Afghanistan when it failed to adhere to failure protocols after dropping communications with the ground. At least, that's what we'd like to believe... the alternative scenario
is too frightening to consider.