Mexican drone crashes in backyard of El Paso home

By Diana Washington Valdez and Daniel Borunda|El Paso Times

National Transportation Safety Board officials said that an unmanned drone similar to the one in the photo crash landed in the backyard of a home in the Lower Valley Tuesday. (Courtesy Aeronautics Defense System)

A Mexican drone crashed in El Paso’s Lower Valley, sparking a federal investigation and raising questions about why the aircraft was in U.S. airspace.

“We are collecting data about the crash. We don’t have the aircraft because it was returned to its owner,” said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aircraft crashes in the United States and in other countries that request its help.

Though the U.S. is known to use drones to patrol the border, this is thought to be the first time a Mexican drone has been reported operating at the border.

The drone crashed Tuesday on Craddock Avenue, near the intersection with Yarbrough Drive.

Holloway said the aircraft that crossed into U.S. airspace is a mini orbiter unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Aeronautics Defense System.

According to the developer’s website, the aircraft is designed for use in military and Homeland Security missions. It can be used for reconnaissance missions, low-intensity conflicts and urban warfare.

Officials at the Mexican consul’s office in El Paso did not call back to provide details about what kind of operation the drone was a part of, how long drones have been in use or which government agency controlled it.

Vincent Perez, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, said, “Our office was notified about the incident today (Thursday) after we asked Department of Homeland Security about the press reports on it. We don’t have all the details yet, but we expect to receive more information.”

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