(Gary Williams / Getty Images)
Customs and Border Protection’s small fleet of unmanned aircraft systems remained grounded late this week after the agency intentionally ditched one plane that broke down over the Pacific Ocean near San Diego in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 28.
The agency took that step Tuesday as a precaution soon after a flight crew “put down” a maritime variant of the Predator B aircraft that experienced a mechanical failure while on patrol off the California coast, CBP spokesman Michael Friel said in a statement. The remote crew crashed the aircraft in the ocean after deciding that it could not return to its base in southern Arizona, Friel said, adding that no one was injured. Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were notified, he said. The $12 million plane was destroyed.
CBP’s nine remaining unmanned aircraft, which are used for border security, are still grounded pending developments in the investigation, Friel said. The crew opted to crash the UAS after determing that backup battery was inadequate to get the aircraft back to Arizona after its onboard generator appeared to stop working, the Wall Street Journal reported.