Ronald Fisk had never seen a drone aside from pictures of the aircraft on the Internet. That changed when one crashed near his backyard on Tuesday. As Fisk was fixing a water heater in his mother-in-law’s front yard connected to his house near downtown Colorado Springs, Fisk turned around to see flashing lights and a camera within the device. He did not hear it come down.
“It looked expensive,” Fisk said. “I couldn’t figure out who owned it, so I wrote my telephone number on a piece of paper because the camera was moving and held it in front of the camera, thinking someone would call me if they wanted it back. That didn’t work out, so I called the police.”
It turned out that a little military drone went on a long journey when Fort Carson controllers lost track of the 4-pound RQ-11 craft and it wandered all the way to Fisk’s neighborhood on Alexander Road between Uintah and San Miguel streets.
That’s nearly double the Raven’s stated range of 6.2 miles. No one was hurt in the incident around 1 p.m. Tuesday, which happened nearly 12 miles from the post. Fisk said Colorado Springs police arrived with Fort Carson soldiers later in the afternoon to pick up the drone, with its tail section landing nearby about 15 minutes after it was stuck in a tree in the yard.
Ravens are used by Fort Carson companies to keep an eye on battlefields. Introduced during the Iraq war, the electric-powered craft are launched by throwing them skyward and are designed to break into pieces when they land. A small camera aboard the Raven sends pictures to a soldier-carried computer.
The post said the Raven was flying “in support of increased force protection measures on Fort Carson.” With increased security at area military bases, the drones also can be used to keep track of threats to Fort Carson and other facilities.
It’s the first reported use of a drone to protect an area military installation.
Last week, U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base ordered increased security at all American military installations. The command’s Adm. Bill Gortney said Tuesday that the move wasn’t driven by a specific threat, but was designed to keep terrorists off-guard.
It’s the highest security level seen since 9/11 at local bases. The Raven, the smallest drone in the Army’s inventory, flies not far over rooftops at 30 mph, making it unlikely to tangle with larger craft. Batteries allow the Raven to stay aloft for about 90 minutes.
The tiny spy planes, though, have a tendency to get lost. Ravens have gone wayward on several Fort Carson training exercises over the past decade, spurring searches of the post’s ranges.
Raven crashes occur on every flight. The small plane is designed to stall out at low altitude and fall to the ground where soldiers can recover it.
Photos: Ronald Fisk
Source: The Gazette