Craig Whitlock over at WaPo does a great bit of work bringing together various sources to give a detailed account of one of the lesser discussed facts about unmanned aircraft, their loss rate. Required reading here and here.
He wants to use the data to push back on the civilian use of drones - but let's focus on some of his data WRT military drones;
Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act.I am a supporter of expanded and measured use of unmanned aircraft as they make sense. We need to make sure we keep in mind their limitations and contain the overly enthusiastic advocates who think they will replace everything.
More than 400 large U.S. military drones crashed in major accidents worldwide between Sept. 11, 2001, and December 2013. By reviewing military investigative reports and other records, The Washington Post was able to identify 194 drone crashes that fell into the most severe category: Class A accidents that destroyed the aircraft or caused (under current standards) at least $2 million in damage.
Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. Drone flights by law enforcement agencies and the military, which already occur on a limited basis, are projected to surge.
The documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes.
Military drones have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair.
Loss rate, vulnerability to access denial to satellite navigation and communication links, ease of intercept in non-permissive environments - there are plenty of concerns.
Each year they make more and more sense for use in the toolbox, but we are a long way off - if ever - from them being "the tool."