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Reports: U.S. wrestles with drone crashes

Dec. 1, 2012 at 3:08 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The increased use of drones by the U.S. military has hit some rough patches in the form of accidents and crashes.

The Washington Post reported Friday Air Force documents detailed a rash of incidents involving the high-tech unmanned aircraft being flown from civilian airports in other countries, often by civilian contractors who lack experience in handling them.

Five Predator drones have crashed in Djibouti, where the main airport is also the base for U.S. anti-terrorism missions over Somalia and Yemen, the newspaper said Saturday.

Some of the crashes were caused by mechanical malfunctions but others were blamed on operator error. Either way, the mishaps could complicate relations with aviation officials in countries that have agreed to host U.S. drones.

"There is a need to understand the urgency that this airport doesn't belong to us," one Air Force official said. "Every time that we cause a delay or they miss flight times and connecting flights, there's a big backlash and repercussions."

The Air Force told the Post incidents involving the Predator drones were roughly the same rate the venerable F-16 fighter jet experienced at the same point in its development.

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