The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that a Mexican government drone crashed in El Paso, TX, but the device was returned to the Mexican government before the National Transportation Safety Board could examine it. And as government officials are giving few details, many are wondering why such a device was patrolling U.S. airspace.
"We are collecting data about the crash. We don't have the aircraft because it was returned to its owner," Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, told the El Paso Times.
"I was told that it crashed in somebody's backyard, and that no one was injured. I was paged at 6:28 p.m. on Tuesday, so it happened shortly before that," El Paso police Detective Mike Baranyay told the paper. "We were told it was not a police matter."
The drone crashed on Tuesday and, depending on the exact location (which authorities aren't releasing), could have been a third to a half mile inside the U.S border.
From the El Paso Times:
Though the U.S. is known to use drones to patrol the border, this is thought to be the first time a Mexican drone has been reported operating at the border.
The drone crashed Tuesday on Craddock Avenue, near the intersection with Yarbrough Drive.
Holloway said the aircraft that crossed into U.S. airspace is a mini orbiter unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Aeronautics Defense System.
According to the developer's website, the aircraft is designed for use in military and Homeland Security missions. It can be used for reconnaissance missions, low-intensity conflicts and urban warfare.
"We responded to a concerned citizen's call and recovered a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which belonged to the Government of Mexico (GOM)," said Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenny L. Burke in a statement.
"We worked collaboratively with the GOM and other U.S. federal agencies to coordinate the return of the UAV to (Mexico)."
Yet according to the Times, neither Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Border Patrol officials would say why the drone was returned to Mexico before investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board could inspect it.
"It is an ongoing investigation," a border patrol agent told the Times.
That doesn't answer the slew of questions swirling around the case. Gawker asks what is arguably the most important one:
Okay, well, breaking news: Our government is sketchy as hell. But I still want to know what the drone was doing! Was it spying on... El Paso? Of all places?