Ten days after grounding its fleet of drones, federal border officials Friday says they have determined the cause of a January 28 drone crash and are returning the remaining aircraft to the sky to continue patrolling U.S. borders.
Officials say the generator on the aircraft -- a $12 million variant of the Predator B -- failed, forcing operators to ditch the plane in the Pacific Ocean.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel said in a statement that procedures in place for this possibility "were properly carried out by the flight crew." Mechanical steps have been taken to mitigate the vulnerability, he said.
On January 28, a flight crew ditched the unmanned aircraft in the ocean 20 miles southwest of San Diego after concluding they were unable to return it to its base in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
With the loss of the aircraft, CBP now has nine unmanned aircraft.
In 2006, the agency lost another unmanned aircraft when it lost communications with it as it patrolled the southern border. In that instance, the aircraft was programmed to go to a pre-designated airspace and "loiter" in the event of a loss of communications. But it instead glided for 14 minutes, covering 30 miles, and crashed within a couple hundred yards of a rural home.