Runaway drone still on the loose over Latvia

A remote-controlled aircraft manufactured by UAVFactory that went missing on May 2 still has not been found as of May 5.

Ten reports of suspicious flying objects were received Monday night, but none has been confirmed as the lost UAVFactory drone, said the Emergency Situation and Communication Manager of the Civil Aviation Agency (CAA) Aivis Vincevs.

An increasingly plausible version is that the missing 5.5 meter-wide and 3.5 meter-long unmanned aircraft might already have landed on the ground, a CAA spokesman said.

Theoretically, with the fuel left in the tank, the drone could keep flying until Tuesday, May 5, around 19:10. Searches will continue until the evening, Vincevs said, adding that throughout the night, a search unit was prepared to travel to the scene and intercept the unmanned aircraft if confirmed it was still in the air.

A private plane is in readiness mode to approach and take control of the drone in case it is still in the air. The National Armed Forces will also continue to provide support in the search. If the drone is found, a helicopter will be sent to take control of it.

"Eight search units ready to take control of the drone are located in Riga and its vicinity", Vincevs said. 

 

CAA confirms that the limitation to use Latvian airspace at a height up to 1950 meters for civil aviation aircraft remains in force; however, Rīga airport continues to operate in accordance with visual flight rules.

The uncontrolled flying drone prevented a Smartlynx flight from China on Sunday, May 3, from landing in Riga. It had to be redirected to Tallinn. 

Vincevs told Latvijas Radio that CAA wants to obtain the drone to investigate how the state-of-the-art, technologically advanced experimental prototype aircraft, with GPS and all the electronic equipment in place, could simply have vanished.  

Communication with the drone was lost during a test flight on Saturday, May 2, while testing its flight-length capabilities, which could exceed the world record. UAVFactory spokesman Jevgeņijs Šiļņikovs claimed that the aircraft can fly up to 90 hours. The speed of the 25-kilogram drone could be around 70 kilometers an hour.

Residents who notice a 5.5-meter-wide and 3.5-meter-long unmanned aircraft are asked to immediately contact the Aviation Search and Rescue Coordination Center at 29337238 or 65703988.

The drone's progress has proven popular online. Its own Twitter account has even appeared, in which it muses on its travels. "How great it is to fly over an independent Latvia!"

 

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