IDF launches probe after two more mini drones crash
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IDF launches probe after two more mini drones crash

Commander grounds fleet as Skylark hand-launched military drones go down in West Bank, bringing total crashes this year to at least 8

Illustrative: An IDF soldier from the Artillery Corps launches an Elbit Skylark drone, known in the IDF as a Sky Rider, on January 21, 2013. (Cpl. Zev Marmorstein/Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: An IDF soldier from the Artillery Corps launches an Elbit Skylark drone, known in the IDF as a Sky Rider, on January 21, 2013. (Cpl. Zev Marmorstein/Israel Defense Forces)

Two small IDF drones crashed in the West Bank on Monday, the latest Israeli unmanned aircraft to go down in recent months, for as yet unclear reasons, the army said.

One of the hand-launched unmanned aerial vehicles fell in the city of Hebron, the second in the city of Bethlehem. Both were recovered, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said there was no risk that intelligence could have been gleaned from the Skylark model drones.

The military said it was investigating the circumstances behind the crash landings. An army spokesperson said it was not immediately clear if the two incidents were related.

The head of the IDF Ground Forces Command, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, grounded the entire fleet of Skylark drones until an investigation could be completed into the crashes, noting that they occur regularly.

The “sky rider,” as it is known in Hebrew, is a tactical surveillance drone created by Israel’s Elbit Systems and operated by the IDF’s Artillery Corps. The miniature UAV can be launched by one or two people, depending on the model, and once airborne provides a live video feed to soldiers on the ground.

Since January, Skylarks have crashed at least seven times and another one was shot down while in operational service.

One crashed in January in southern Lebanon, prompting a mad dash by IDF forces to recover the aircraft and prevent its falling into enemy hands. Hezbollah claimed to have retrieved parts of the destroyed drone.

In March, another crashed in northern Gaza and a third was shot down in southern Syria. A fourth fell out of the sky in May near the Lebanese village of Ayta ash Shab. And on July 4, a fifth crashed in southern Gaza, where Hamas claimed to have retrieved it. On July 18, yet another crashed near Nablus, but was returned to Israeli hands by Palestinian security forces.

That apparently poor record follows a longer history of drone failures, including an August 2016 crash of an experimental Israel Aerospace Industries drone that destroyed part of a family home in the northern village of Zalafa, lightly injuring 25 people.

A Skylark also crashed in Gaza in August 2015, when Hamas claimed to have captured and reassembled it.

And in July 2015, Lebanon’s military claimed an Israeli drone crashed in the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

Similar crashes were also reported in 2013 and 2014.

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