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Military loses control of helicopter drone near Washington

By Bob Kovach, CNN
  • Operators lose control of the unmanned helicopter for about 20 minutes
  • The aircraft gets about 40 miles from Washington
  • The communications link is reestablished and the helicopter returned

(CNN) -- A military test facility in southern Maryland lost control of an unmanned helicopter for about 20 minutes this month before reestablishing its communications and returning it to the airfield it took off from, a U.S. navy spokesman said.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout -- a drone helicopter -- took off from Webster Field at the Patuxent River Test Facilities on August 2 and lost communications during a pre-programmed flight, the spokesman said.

The aircraft traveled about 23 miles and entered National Capitol Region restricted air space, but never got closer than 40 miles to Washington.

NORAD -- the North American Aerospace Defense Command -- and the Federal Aviation Administration were both notified of the runaway helicopter, while operators worked to regain control, the spokesman said. It took about 20 minutes to re-program the aircraft and return it to Webster Field.

Northrop Grumman, the maker of the MQ-8B, says the aircraft "provides unprecedented situation awareness and precision targeting support for U.S. Armed Forces of the future."