Disaster averted: Navy’s unmanned aircraft crashes after ‘hitting bird’

Published: July 19, 2011
Authorities carry the debris of a drone that crashed into the National Oil Refinery. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS

Authorities carry the debris of a drone that crashed into the National Oil Refinery. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS

Authorities carry the debris of a drone that crashed into the National Oil Refinery. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS Onlookers and journalists gather outside an oil refinery following the crash of a navy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on the premises in Karachi on July 19, 2011. A Pakistani surveillance navy drone crashed near an oil refinery after hitting a bird on a routine flight, coming down in the country's largest city of Karachi on July 19, the navy said. PHOTO: AFP Police officers, rescue workers and the media gather outside gates of the National Refinery Limited after a Pakistani Naval unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed in its grounds in Karachi July 19, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS Firemen await atop their truck outside the gates of the National Refinery Limited after a Pakistani Naval unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crashed in it's grounds in Karachi July 19, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

A major disaster was averted on Tuesday morning when an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the Pakistan Navy crashed inside the premises of the National Oil Refinery in Korangi. Even though there were no injuries on the ground and all installations remained safe from possible damage, the stock price of the National Refinery fell by Rs7.98 to close at Rs364.88 at the Karachi Stock Exchange.

Officially, Pakistan Navy says that the ill-fated UAV was a “small remote-controlled aircraft” on a “routine mission” that crashed when it “hit an eagle” during mid flight between 9:30 and 10 am. Officials said that the aircraft had a wing span of around 10 feet which is typically used for target practice. One spokesperson said that the aircraft was almost ‘toy like’ and nothing serious had occurred.

However, sources within Pakistan Navy and the local drone manufacturing industry told The Express Tribune that the pilotless aircraft was a mid range tactical UAV called the Uqaab, which is typically used for surveillance missions. The locally-manufactured Uqaab has a wing span of about 20 feet, weighs more than 200kgs and its 550cc engine runs on gasoline

“Had this 200-kg aircraft hit an oil depot, the consequences would have been disastrous,” one drone expert revealed.

This heavy machine that is typically fitted with sensors and high-powered still and video cameras, was flown from the PNS Mehran base, which in the recent past faced the brunt of an attack by terrorists. Since the attack on the Mehran base, Pakistan Navy has increased surveillance in areas surrounding all of its bases. Although the Uqaab has not been formally inducted into service by Pakistan Navy and has been in the trial phase with the armed forces for many months, it is being used for reconnaissance missions along the bay and coastal areas of the city. Even before the attacks, the unarmed drones have been flown from PNS Mehran many times before this incident, a navy official said.

Sources say that it is highly unlikely that a bird caused the crash. “The Uqaab has a fibre glass body and a propeller engine at its back. It would take an eagle made of steel with razor wings to bring it down,” according to one drone expert, who stressed on the absurdity of the claim. According to him, like many other mid-range tactical UAVs, the Uqaab, too, has had issues, including flight control algorithm problems and mechanical failure.

The National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) had indigenously developed the Uqaab in collaboration with some local scientists.

Chief Fire Officer Ehteshaam Siddiqui said two fire brigades were moved to the area immediately after the incident. However, police and Rangers posted at the gate of the refinery did not allow them to enter the area.

SP Korangi Usman Ghani said that when police entered the refinery there was no fire, although the wreckage of the aircraft was scattered in the area.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • Ba Ha
    Jul 19, 2011 - 11:13AM

    How Small??


  • heh..
    Jul 19, 2011 - 11:25AM

    Seems like only news that comes out of Pakistan is a bad news be it politics, military, security or disasters….Hope this down time goes away soon…


  • Satan
    Jul 19, 2011 - 12:48PM

    Thats on us!l not on government..
    The incompetency of our fresh graduates, and the tons of TeChNiCaL universities.
    I blame myself. I am an engineer. I dont know jack.

    But I ‘do’ dream to go to USA one day, work in silicon valley. Party and hangout with cool people and post my pictures on facebook.

    At last, Pakistan Zindabad!… ‘agla worldcup humara hi hai’


  • Hmmm
    Jul 19, 2011 - 1:03PM

    Wow – we have drones? Recommend

  • kingpin
    Jul 19, 2011 - 1:10PM

    Any idea which refinery did the drone hit?
    I think only National Refinery is in Korangi? not sure..


  • Much Amused
    Jul 19, 2011 - 1:26PM

    A bird hit ? How do the know? Another attempt to cover up without thinking. How sad can the performance of the navy get.


  • woohoo
    Jul 19, 2011 - 1:56PM

    wow! it actually flies?!


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 2:01PM

    Even PakPositive site have stop updating.


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 2:03PM

    We export them too. Company name is Integrated Dynamics.


  • breitzer
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:07PM

    Pakistani drone..i like this word…lets check the bird was that a real bird or…another drone bird….


  • a r modak
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:09PM

    because of the massive aid package, this does not mean americans can violate the country”s sovereignty……..americans seem to think that because of this, they “own” the country, and consequently, the country owes it to them for their aid…..the price that Pakistan is paying for such aid is destabilisation-the likes of which has never, never been experienced by them.

    a visit to Pakistan some two decades ago, showed this country in a tranquil state…….clean, wide avenues, a community at peace.
    enjoyed it thoroughly…………….
    my heart bleeds for this country, now in a virtual anarchical state
    may the almighty grant “sukoon”


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 2:12PM

    The timing of this makes it hard not to laugh a little.


  • Maher
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:24PM

    Wat else we can expect in Pakistan now a days.Recommend

  • Naz Ebr
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:26PM

    @Hmmm: Yes we have the peaceful type of drones which only watch the enemy escape! [The unarmed UAV, even the Afghan Army use it]


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 2:32PM

    Pakistan has been manufacturing small scales drones for quite some time under the Ababeel programme. Pakistan also signed a deal with Italy’s defence manufacturer SELEX Galileo/Galileo Avionica for the Falco UAV some time ago.
    Another private firm that manufactures UAVs in Pakistan that the author failed to mention is Integrated Dynamics.
    However, these UAVs/drones are all unarmed and do not have the capability to hold or deploy missiles or any other weaponry. They are strictly for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.


  • Adil
    Jul 19, 2011 - 2:55PM

    I second that…


  • Jul 19, 2011 - 3:11PM

    Pakistani officials actually care about what angers us? Right!
    They should only be criticizing themselves rather than anything else.


  • Observer from UK
    Jul 19, 2011 - 3:17PM

    Can’t even use these drones properly. Thanks God it did not crash on the oil refinery, The military is brilliant in runing commercial organisations.


  • mkhan
    Jul 19, 2011 - 3:38PM

    THis report is worrying-this ‘drone’ passed over Clifton residential area twice just before the crash was reported-the sound of its engine just wasn’t right-what is the necessity of these over highly populated areas?


  • saleem
    Jul 19, 2011 - 3:49PM

    I guess we still live in the age of Ababeel, dont know whether to laugh or cry, gives another indegenious low cost idea to the people of FATA a pigeon farms for guess what !! pigeon shield


  • Jameel
    Jul 19, 2011 - 3:55PM

    It was a Pakistan Navy UAV (unmanned
    aerial vehicle) and it was on a
    routine training sortie

    Routine training sortie over oil refinery? Not very smart. Training is best done over uninhibited areas. Just for future reference o ye military experts.


  • wah wah
    Jul 19, 2011 - 3:55PM

    what more do you expect from our Navy? ;)


  • Adeel759
    Jul 19, 2011 - 4:22PM

    These are little better controlled than the ones kids play with. Its nothing like the drones you all are thinking about.Recommend

  • Adnan
    Jul 19, 2011 - 4:41PM

    We have been making drones for years. Hell, we’ve sold drones to the US border patrol.

    We are currently developing an attack drone. It’s currently being tested.


  • Babloo
    Jul 19, 2011 - 4:59PM

    Its better to call these toys or kites , that look like drones.
    I hope that the boird that hit the toy-drone is arrested


  • SaudiRules
    Jul 19, 2011 - 5:22PM

    Drones? You can buy a large remote control-petrol engine plane for less than $5000. Put a wire-less digital camera (costs less than $500) on it, but a $200 monitor to view the video and u have a “high-tech” surveillance drone!! This is what the NAVY has!


  • antony
    Jul 19, 2011 - 5:54PM

    @adnan , future attack drones whose primary function is to shoot the pigeons ,hawks just to keep floating.


  • Mr. Nobody
    Jul 19, 2011 - 6:55PM

    actually pakistan has a very advanced drone programme,indian authorities captured a surveillance pigeon in rajasthan last year :D.


  • juughhgggj
    Jul 19, 2011 - 7:44PM

    New variations on the Predator are being created to expand its capabilities. By modifying the airframe they will be able to fly the new Predator variations at up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). The new model is called the MQ-9 Altair


  • Cautious
    Jul 19, 2011 - 7:57PM

    Should have kept those American trainers around a bit longer?


  • Kashif
    Jul 19, 2011 - 9:33PM

    yes. it is National Refinery Limited


  • Babloo
    Jul 20, 2011 - 12:40AM

    I hope the interior minister orders immediate arrests of all pigeons and sparrows in Karachi , who are acting or flying, against national interests.
    Enough is enough.


  • Talha
    Jul 20, 2011 - 1:37AM

    @ Saudi Rules ~ Why don’t you do it, make a small firm, it can be a next big idea :p

    @ Cautious ~ I have visited one of the firms 5 years back in the outer region of Islamabad, They are making it for quite a long time. No need of American, the all were paki, and infact all the workers were trained locally and they were using solar energy ( i guess they knew that energy crises is coming ).


  • fahim
    Jul 20, 2011 - 3:44AM

    ill designed poor quality chinese drones … they were destined to fail. Why we keep buying junk from the chinese? shame on us..


  • Ash Chak
    Jul 20, 2011 - 5:39AM

    @a r modak:

    The reason for Pakistan going down this slippery slope is because unlike 2 decades ago, American, Pakistani and Talibani interests are misaligned. Pakistan was still the recipent of aid from america then, and it is still a recipent of american aid now.Try, just try, getting off American aid. If you think life is bad now, it will seem like a walk in the garden compared to that scenario.


  • Hammad
    Jul 21, 2011 - 11:20AM

    It would take an eagle made of steel with razor wings to bring it down,

    I think that you should get some better sources than this one, and the journalist who made this story should start doing some homework before writing stories.Recommend

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