UN Falco UAV crashes in DRC

5926

A Selex Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by the United Nations has crashed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Charles-Antoine Bambara, a spokesman for MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC, told Agence France Presse that the aircraft crashed yesterday shortly after taking off from Goma airport. It came down in an uninhabited area three kilometres north of Goma and did not cause damage or injurure anyone. Bmbara said the crash was under investigation.

The UN deployed five Falcos to Goma in December last year in the organisation’s first UAV deployment. The aircraft began flying on December 3. One was damaged when it ‘slipped off the runway’ in January this year.

In a report earlier this year analysing the performance of the Falcos which were deployed to the eastern DRC in December last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said the drones have proved useful. “Since their operationalisation, the unmanned aerial systems have provided MONUSCO with a responsive, controlled, and timely source of information, particularly in terms of supplementing the force’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts against the illegal activities of armed groups,” he said.

Thick forests, rugged terrain and the scarcity of roads on Congo’s eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda have complicated efforts by Monusco to control the resource-rich area. The addition of the UAVs means the UN can better monitor remote areas of the DRC.

The UAVs have also saved lives – on 5 May a Falco picked up images of people in danger after a boat capsized in Lake Kivu near Goma. Thanks to the alert, UN peacekeepers were able to intervene and 14 people were rescued, although at least one died.

The Falco is an unarmed, medium-altitude, medium-endurance RPAS able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips. The aircraft has a range of 250km (155 miles) which can be extended via optional upgrades.

Last year Selex ES received a three year contract from the UN to operate the Falco in the eastern DRC. The aircraft were delivered to the DRC by the Italian Air Force in mid-November.