First Authorised US Drone Launches at Test Site, Crashes Immediately

By Adam Clark Estes on at

Friday was a big day at the drone testing facility in Boulder City, Nevada. It was the day that the first drone authorised to fly without approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would take to the air. The bright-orange unmanned aircraft, Magpie, did just that—and then it crashed to the ground in an embarrassing cloud of dust two seconds later.

The crashed was met with an audible groan from the crowd. This was supposed to be Magpie's moment in the sun, but the bloody thing just crashed straight into the ground in front of the governor, a senator, a congressman, and countless concerned locals. The drone itself was apparently unharmed. But how embarrassing.

In a way, it was just the demonstration the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems needed to justify its existence. This is one of six test sites nationwide tasked with figuring out exactly how drones could share the skies with commercial aircraft, so it needs to provide a realistic portrait of the state of the industry.

The Nevada facility is also the only such site in America that can issue its own FAA airworthiness certificate. Leaders watching this cutting edge technology fail brilliantly shows how important sites like the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems are. Of course, it also doesn't help the government lighten up about commercial drone rules, which are sure to be strict. [AP]