Belgian investigators arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) capital city of Kinshasa on 5 October to determine the cause of what is believed to be the world’s first incident in which a civilian has been accidentally killed by a military unmanned air vehicle.

The 3 October accident, involving an Israel Aircraft Industries-Belgium Eagle consortium B-Hunter UAV, killed one woman and injured at least three other people. The UAV was being operated by Belgian defence force air component personnel on attachment to the European Union Force (EUFOR) in the Congo.

EUFOR says that the UAV experienced failure of both its engines immediately after take-off from Kinshasa’s N’Dolo airport. The UAV, which is remotely piloted during the take-off and landing stages, had reached an altitude of “5-6m” (16-19.5ft) when the simultaneous failures occurred. It continued to rise and glided for some distance, before making a “rough landing” on the Boulevard Triomphal, around 1km (0.5 miles) from the airport, killing the civilian.

Shortly after coming to rest, the UAV burst into flames. It is unclear whether the fire was caused by the rupture of fuel tanks during the landing, or was deliberately lit by spectators. The fire caused injuries to another three people identified by emergency response units on the scene. Belgium has suspended B-Hunter operations since the incident.

The UAV loss was the second experienced by the Belgian defence force since deploying a four-aircraft B-Hunter system to the DRC in July as part of a 1,100-strong EUFOR security detachment. The first was shot down on its final approach to N’Dolo airport on 28 July by a lone gunman.

Source: Flight International