A Military Drone Took A 600-Mile Joyride Across the U.S.

Reaper Aircraft Flies Without Pilot From Creech AFB
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, NV - AUGUST 08: An MQ-9 Reaper takes off August 8, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The Reaper is the Air Force's first "hunter-killer" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to engage time-sensitive targets on the battlefield as well as provide intelligence and surveillance. The jet-fighter sized Reapers are 36 feet long with 66-foot wingspans and can fly for up to 14 hours fully loaded with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. They can fly twice as fast and high as the smaller MQ-1 Predators, reaching speeds of 300 mph at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet. The aircraft are flown by a pilot and a sensor operator from ground control stations. The Reapers are expected to be used in combat operations by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq within the next year. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Photo by Ethan Miller—Getty Images

A military drone took a 600-mile joyride before ending its freedom by crash landing into a tree.

The army lost track of the $1.5 million drone during a routine training exercise from Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona on Jan. 31, according to a report this week by military publication Stars and Stripes. A hiker found the aircraft 10 days later near Evergreen, Colo., broken in a tree.

The drone, a AAI RQ-7 Shadow, normally has a range of 77 miles. But it was somehow able to stay aloft for its 600-mile trip and at an altitude in excess of 12,000 feet to clear several mountain ranges.

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Drones that lose their communications with the ground typically hover until a new network link is established and personnel can get the aircraft to return home, according to Stars and Stripes. The army did not say what exactly happened, but the newspaper speculated that the drone’s emergency system failed.

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Fortune contacted the Army, and will update this story if it responds.

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