The little drone that wanted to go home

by | May 5, 2010


Last month, Ireland withdrew its peacekeepers from the UN peacekeeping force in Chad.  Some of their military hardware had tried to get home early:

The Irish troops were trying to keep bandits and various rebel gunmen from several large refugee camps. They quickly discovered that they had to get some suitable aircraft (helicopters and UAVs) to accomplish this task. They ended up leasing some Russian Mi-17 helicopters, complete with East European crews.

The Irish also bought two Israeli Orbiter UAV systems, for $550,000 each. Two of their six UAVs were lost in Chad. One UAV was lost when it apparently tried to fly back to Ireland, after it lost its communications link with the operator. The Orbiter is programmed to head back to the operator if it loses its comm link. But this Orbiter apparently still had a GPS location back in Ireland in its memory, and headed there. Since Ireland is 5,000 kilometers from Chad, the Orbiter ran out of juice and landed about 4,800 kilometers short of its goal.

(NB: on closer inspection, this story turns out to date back a few years, to an earlier phase of the Irish mission.  Still tugs the heart-strings though…).

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    <strong><a href="http://www.globaldashboard.org/author/richard-gowan/">Richard Gowan</a></strong> coordinates the International Security Institutions program at the <a href="http://www.cic.nyu.edu">Center on International Cooperation</a>, New York University. He is also the UN Policy Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ecfr.eu">European Council on Foreign Relations</a> and an associate of the <a href="http://www.fpc.org.uk">Foreign Policy Center</a> (London).


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