The drone that crashed March 31 near the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range had an 18-foot wingspan and weighed more than 100 pounds.
Range manager Darryl Abling said Friday that PAE, a defense contractor from Arlington, Virginia, had been testing the “Resolute Eagle” drone when it fell to the ground and started a fire in a nearby wheat field. Abling again declined to provide details surrounding the incident.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash, which took place just north of an east-west runway at the Pendleton airport.
FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer wrote in an email Friday that the vehicle was in the middle of a test when it crashed.
“No injuries were reported and there was no airport damage,” he said.
In a follow-up email, Kenitzer said FAA investigations of such crashes typically take one to two months. When the investigation is complete, Kenitzer said the details would be made public.
PAE issued their statement on the incident, while adding context on the company’s operations.
“All safety guidelines and procedures were observed during the event,” it states. “Field testing new equipment is standard procedure and essential to the continuous development of Unmanned Aerial Systems.”
Abling said he could not share any other details until PAE filed their own report on the crash, which he expects to come soon. Abling said it doesn’t usually take as long to determine the root cause of the crash as it does to devise a plan on how to prevent it from happening again.
PAE grounded its operations in Pendleton while the FAA conducts its investigation, although the range’s other customers are allowed to conduct testing without interruption.
A longtime UAS operator with Northrop Grumman before he was hired by the city, Abling said he expects the FAA to take no further action against PAE beyond reviewing the incident.
Test range officials frequently cite PAE as a customer, drawing attention to the economic impact of work crews who spend money locally and the company’s effort to create jobs that are based in Pendleton.
PAE has been testing its Resolute Eagle drone, an unmanned vehicle that weighs more than 115 pounds empty but can take on more than 65 pounds of payload. The drone can fly at an altitude above 15,000 feet for more than 15 hours and can operate outside the line of sight.
Using its imaging and longterm hovering capabilities, PAE advertises Resolute Eagle as a UAS that can assist the military and other authorities with various missions, such as anti-poaching, anti-piracy, humanitarian aid and infrastructure protection and inspection.