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$1.3 million UK military drone flies over primary school, crashes




A United Kingdom military drone has crashed just several hours after completing a flyover of a Welsh primary school.

The Independent reports that the Thales Watchkeeper WK450 had made its flight over Penparc school during a sports day attended by approximately 200 adults and children.

Three hours later and several miles from the school, either that particular drone or another identical model, crashed and nearly struck a 17-year-old boy who was out for a driving lesson.

Parents told The Independent that they had regularly witnessed the drones flying over the school during the last five years.

Each Watchkeeper drone weighs approximately 1000 pounds (450 kilograms) and can carry a 330 pound (150 kg) payload for up to 17 hours.

Watchkeeper drones are intended for use by the British Army to conduct intelligence operations, surveillance, target acquisition, weather surveys and reconnaissance. The drones were briefly deployed in Afghanistan but withdrawn shortly afterwards and are still undergoing trials by the army.

This latest crash is yet another setback to the program becoming fully operational. Since flight trials began in 2010 the Watchkeeper program has been beset by delays and the drones have been involved in five separate crashes. In total, the Watchkeeper program has cost the UK more than £1.2 billion ($1.58 billion).

The cause of this particular crash, which was witnessed by several Welsh locals, is unknown but speculated to be weather related. The crash occured on a particularly windy day and the UAV may have simply overshot the runway.

The Watchkeeper drone program has been riddled with problems. Credit: Rex Features

Locals from the Welsh village of Penparc have expressed serious concerns to The Independent about the British Army testing the unreliable drones near their homes. They are demanding that any future flights be forbidden from flying near residential areas or primary schools.

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