A remote-control drone operated by the Mexican government crashed in the United States near El Paso, Texas, this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency confirms to TPM.
“CBP/U.S. Border Patrol responded to a concerned citizen’s call and recovered small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle which belonged to the government of Mexico (GOM),” CBP Press Officer Roger Maier told TPM in an e-mail. “We worked collaboratively with the GOM and other US Federal agencies to coordinate the return of the UAV to the GOM.”
A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, tells TPM that the plane that crashed was a “mini orbiter UAV” but declined to elaborate further. A Google search turns up a drone called a Orbiter Mini UAV made by Aeronautics Defense Systems, an Israeli company (check out the brochure and a video of the Orbiter in action here and here).
The news was first reported in The El Paso Times, which reported that the drone crashed in El Paso’s Lower Valley on Tuesday. “I was told that it crashed in somebody’s back yard, and that no one was injured. I was paged at 6:28 p.m. on Tuesday, so it happened shortly before that. We were told it was not a police matter,” El Paso Police Department spokesman Mike Baranyay told the Times. The Times suggests that the crashed drone was returned to the Mexico government by U.S. authorities at one of the bridges which span the U.S.-Mexico border.
Keith Holloway, the NTSB Public Affairs Officer, told TPM that his agency was still collecting data on the incident, but that it would not be sending people to the crash site to investigate.
“We may or may not do a report on this,” Holloway said.
Last year, Mexico spent $23.25 million to buy an “unspecified” number of Hermes 450 drones from the Israel-based Elbit Systems Ltd., Reuters reported in August. In July, the blog mxsecurity.wordpress.com reported that The Mexican Navy’s Institute for Technology Innovation was developing three Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of its own, having previously purchased a “similar number” of UAVs made by Hydra Technologies.
The Department of Homeland Security started flying a Predator-B drone out of Corpus Christi, Texas in September. According to The Arizona Daily Star, the U.S. now how seven Predator-B drones operating on the border, with three more scheduled to begin operation before the end of 2011. In April 2006, a Predator-B drone crashed while on patrol near Nogales, Arizona.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com