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British army loses seventh drone off Cyprus

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A £30 mln British army drone which has difficulties flying in poor weather conditions, has crashed into the sea off the coast of Cyprus.

It crashed while being flown from RAF Akrotiri, Limassol, when it plummeted into the sea on May 29 during a routine training flight.

The Watchkeeper first entered service in 2014 in Afghanistan.

But the high-tech platform has crashed at least seven times, with two lost off the coast of Wales and a number crashing on landing.

One was lost during a test flight to see how the UAV would cope with ‘icing’ conditions.

The aerial surveillance platform has been beset by problems and has seen the budget spiral from £800 mln to over £1.4 bln.

According to the manufacturer Thales, the system can be deployed within two hours.

Some of the fleet has been used to monitor migrants crossing the Channel.

Tory backbencher Mark Francois expressed outrage over the latest airframe loss.

He told The Sun: “The MoD must get a grip. This system which entered service years late has been plagued by problems.

“Yet we see other drones performing successfully in Ukraine on an almost daily basis.”

The MoD says the uncrewed aircraft hosts a range of sensors, including Electro-Optic and Infra-red full-motion video day and night camera, Synthetic Aperture Radar and a Moving Target Indicator radar.

In one earlier crash, the operators switched off the drone’s autoland function when it failed to land in poor weather conditions.

This also removed several safety protections, which caused the half-tonne surveillance platform to crash.

Several accident reports have found the ‘all-weather aircraft’ can become easily bamboozled in fog, rain, snow and gusts of wind.

The £30 mln Thales Watchkeeper
Length 6.5m
Wingspan 10.9m
Cruising speed 77kts
Payload 150kg
Power Wankel rotary engine
Range 150km
Altitude 16,000ft
Sensor range 200km

A further investigation will be launched following this latest crash.  (source MailOnline)