An Army drone flew 600 miles astray then crashed into a tree

The rogue RQ-7 flew all the way from a base in Arizona to central Colorado.

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Tom Regan
March 2nd, 2017
In this article: drones, gear, military, robots, rq-7

A routine military drone test quickly turned into something more bizarre, after the missing aircraft mysteriously turned up ten days later over 600 miles away. While testing an RQ-7 "Shadow" drone at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, the military lost control of the device soon after launch. After it failed to return to base, the Army presumed that it had quickly been destroyed until a hiker found it crashed into a tree in Evergreen, Colorado.

While the story doesn't sound that odd on the surface, the $1.5 million unmanned drone is meant to stay within 77 miles of its C-band line-of-sight data link. With the rogue RQ-7 traveling over 8 times that distance, investigators are still struggling to explain its incredible journey. Data recovered from the free-spirited drone showed it reached an altitude of 12,000 feet, enabling it to soar over the Rocky Mountains.

Like most drones, the military's are equipped with a failsafe, meaning that in the case of an error they fly back to their operators. Yet, for whatever reason, this little RQ-7 didn't.

Correction: An earlier version of this post indicated Fort Huachaca is located in New Mexico, instead of Arizona.

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