November 18, 2008

No one claims drone that crashed near El Mirage Dry Lake

Jason Pesick, Staff Writer
San Bernardino Sun

One of the many flying contraptions that buzz above the desert crashed Monday morning near El Mirage Dry Lake.

But details about the crash remain a mystery. No one will claim responsibility for what local officials said was an ultralight drone. It's not clear why the device crashed or what purpose it served before its demise.

After the crash, law enforcement officials called Fort Irwin military police to the scene.

But the drone belonged to San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., not Fort Irwin, said Fort Irwin spokesman Etric Smith.

"It had nothing to do with us," he said. "The reason the authorities called us is that we were the nearest installation."

General Atomics spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz said she does not comment on crashes and that she doubted the flying machine belonged to her employer.

General Atomics is a high-tech company that manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the company's Web site.

The company's research and development facility is located in Adelanto, which is a 25-minute drive from El Mirage. General Atomics also operates a flight operations facility in El Mirage where flight testing, training and other work is done. According to the company, the El Mirage location has office space, a hangar and a runway.

Mickey Quillman, Bureau of Land Management chief of resources in the Barstow office, said military aircraft, such as the Predator unmanned aircraft, constantly fly in the area.

No one was injured in Monday's crash, which took place inside the fence at the El Mirage Dry Lake shortly before 10 a.m.

"The nearest home was like a quarter of a mile away," said San Bernardino County fire spokeswoman Tracey Martinez.