Friday, December 17, 2010

Reconnaissance Drone Crash in El Paso Under Investigation

Via CNN -

Federal authorities were investigating Friday the circumstances of a drone that crashed in El Paso, Texas, this week, which U.S. officials said originated in Mexico.

But Rocio Torres, a spokeswoman for the Mexican attorney general's office, disputed that the drone belonged to that country.

"We have no information with respect to the plane that you're referring to that was found in Texas and said to be Mexican," Torres said, adding that she consulted with other Mexican government officials.

But U.S. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said he believed that the drone "was owned by the government of Mexico, and I think they were the operators."

"There was a drone that crashed on Tuesday, and we are collecting data," Holloway said. "We are not sending anyone down to the scene. We are collecting information to see what occurred."

The crash of an unmanned aerial vehicle from Mexico would be a first on U.S. soil, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Special Operations Supervisor Ramiro Cordero.

Holloway said the craft was an Orbiter Mini UAV designed by Aeronautics Defense Systems, whose website describes it as "a compact and lightweight system designed for use in military and homeland security operations" and "the ultimate solution for over-the-hill reconnaissance missions, low-intensity conflicts and urban warfare operations."


Unmanned drones are routinely used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to look for illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cordero said a resident called his agency Tuesday evening "about something in front of his property."

The agency picked up the device and consulted with officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Mexico. "We determined it was the property of the Mexican government," Cordero said.


According to an update on CNN....
Mexican Attorney General spokeswoman Rocio Torres denied her country's involvement with the drone Friday, but later in the day, another Mexican official said the drone was being operated by the Ministry of Public Security and was following a target at the time of the mechanical malfunction.

The Mexican official did not know the nature of the surveillance but said "we know they were following a target." He did not know how the malfunction affected that operation, if at all.
Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in the United States, also said the drone belonged to Mexico and was part of an operation in coordination with the U.S. government.

"It was flying on the Mexican side of the border when it had a mechanical malfunction," Alday said. "It is my understanding both Mexican and U.S. authorities were fully cognizant of what was going on in the area."

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