Thiruvananthapuram: A naval spy drone, an Israeli-origin Searcher UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), crashed nine miles off Kochi on Wednesday evening. Navy officials said it was “a controlled ditching” of the UAV, which was on a routine surveillance mission, after a technical snag at about 7.30pm.
“A board of inquiry has been ordered into the incident. Efforts are in progress to recover the drone, with ships, divers and equipment being dispatched to the area, where the sea depth is around 24-25 meters,” said an officer.
This comes after an Israeli-origin Heron spy drone of the Navy had gone down 30 nautical miles off the Kerala coast in mid-March. The armed forces have well over 100 Israeli drones, mainly the Searcher-IIs and the more advanced Herons, which are strategic MALE (medium-altitude, long endurance) UAVs and carry a payload of 250kg for around 50 hours of continuous flight. The Navy has deployed drones at its UAV stations at Kochi, Porbander and other places.
As part of Navy’s three-tier aerial surveillance grid for the Indian Ocean Region, the drones are used for innermost layer reconnaissance up to 200 nautical miles.