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Unmanned Aircraft Cashes On The Patuxent River, Maryland
By Daniel Baxter

June 12, 2012 - A Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D) unmanned aircraft being tested by the U.S. Navy crashed on Monday at approximately 12:11 PM EST near Bloodsworth Island in Dorchester County, Maryland approximately 22 miles east of NAS Patuxent River. 

Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is a unmanned aerial vehicle UAV system intended to provide continuous maritime surveillance for the US Navy and complement the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, the Boeing 737-based Multimission Maritime Aircraft (MMA). The system is expected to enter service around 2015.  

Around 40 UAVs will be based at six sites Hawaii; Diego Garcia; NAS Jacksonville, Florida; Kadena Air Base, Japan; NAS Point Mugu, California and Sigonella, Italy. The BAMS is as large as a Boeing 737 with a service ceiling of 60,000 ft, a maximum cruise speed of 357 mph and endurance up to 30 hours.

No one was injured and no property was damaged at the unpopulated swampy crash site. Navy officials said. A Navy F/A-18 aircraft made visual confirmation of the crash. Navy and regional authorities quickly responded to the crash scene, where cleanup of the site is underway. One of five aircraft acquired from the Air Force Global Hawk program, BAMS-D program has been developing tactics and doctrine for the employment of high-altitude unmanned patrol aircraft since November 2006.

BAMS-D supports more than 50 percent of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in theater and has flown more than 5,500 combat hours in support of combat operations since 2008. BAMS-D continues to collect lessons learned for the MQ-4C BAMS Unmanned Aircraft System and the Navy ISR family of systems in an operational arena.

Airline pilots along with pilot unions and air traffic controls have long expressed concerns about the safety of UAV’s being able to fly in U.S. airspace. The concern has been over training, operating in the same airspace as passenger and cargo flights and the likely hood that someone could hijack its frequency and operate the drone remotely. Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, says the people who remotely control aircraft should meet the same training and qualifications as regular pilots. His group is also concerned about controllers losing contact with drones. "We have a long way to go," Moak says of having drones fly safely with passenger jets.



Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit in January against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), requesting data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. The BAMS-D drone that crashes yesterday was as large as a Boeing 737 and had it crashed in a populated area or cashed into a passenger plane it could have spelled out disaster. One of the major problems with these drones is the aircraft is built of high-strength composite materials that makes the inside of the UAV very hot. “They are like flying thermos bottles because of the composites”. Navy officials are investigating the cause of the crash.

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