The airspace over Riga International Airport has been closed due to a lost and possibly still uncontrolled drone flying in Latvian airspace, Minister of Transport Talis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) announced.

The airport’s spokeswoman Laura Karnite told LETA that because of the closure of the airspace, a flight from the Chinese city of Urumqi to Riga was forced to land at Tallinn Airport.

The Latvian Army has deployed an An-2 biplane and a Mi-17 helicopter to search for the drone. The Civil Aviation Agency also said that two aircraft are participating in the operation, while urging citizens to provide information about the runaway UAV if they see it.

The drone can travel at a speed of about 70kph (44mph), and had enough fuel for 90 hours of flight when it was lost. It is 3.5m wide, 5.5m long, and weighs about 26kg (57.3lb).

Operators of the aircraft, UAV Factory, issued the following statement:

On 2 May 2020, a small 25kg experimental UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) owned by the company lost communication with its controllers on the ground. This experimental Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft design was undertaking a phased test flight to attempt a 90-hour world endurance record.

As with any experimental flight testing, knowledge is gained only by flying the UAV to learn from successes and challenges. The lessons learned from this experimental design were to be applied in the company’s next generation production design. Currently, efforts are underway to locate the aircraft and to understand why it encountered issues with communication.

The last verifiable information about the plane’s location was obtained on 2 May 2020, at 7:30 pm local time, 8 hours and 20 minutes after takeoff. The company is in contact with both the local aviation authorities and the military to coordinate the search efforts. An investigation is underway to discover the reason for the communication loss.

UAV Factory has one of the best safety records in its class of aircraft. Over the past 10 years, the company flew over 7,000 internal flight hours demonstrating its outstanding safety. UAV Factory UAVs are operating in more than 50 countries around the world, where they are used by militaries, commercial entities, and universities. The Unmanned Aerial Systems manufactured by UAV Factory are supporting civilian life saving applications, infrastructure protection activities, and NATO military Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations.

Sources: RT; LETA; Press Release

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2020/05/05/runaway-drone-closes-riga-airport/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert. Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache.