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Damage to a passenger-carrying Boeing 737-700 in Mozambique that was widely reported as being a drone crash was not.

On January 5, internal domestic flight TM-136, from Maputo to Tete, was descending when a loud bang was heard. Upon landing, extensive damage to the radome was observed.

Such damage can be caused by bird strikes, but there was an absence of feathers or blood. It was concluded, based on clearly a brief and inadequate investigation, that the damage was caused by a collision with a drone. It was also noted that several nearby mining companies operate large industrial drones that could – possibly – have caused such damage.

But the conclusion – and the widespread reporting – was false.

Today (January 10), The Digital Circuit went back to follow up on the story. We found a new “update” on the AV Herald website. It states the following:

“On Jan 10th 2017 Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Authority reported that they concluded the radome most probably failed as result of a structural failure caused by air flow pressure, contributing factors probably were a defective installation of the radome and inspection of the ribs.

“A foreign object damage was ruled out.”

mozambique drone crash
Not a drone strike: investigation reveals it was a structural failure, not a UAV.

TDC is relieved to see this news but troubled that an inaccurate conclusion, one potentially damaging to the UAV industry, was reached and reported so quickly.

TDC did originally report this story, but was careful to use qualifying language – and note that no debris had been found.

There have now been multiple instances where drones have been blamed for collisions, or near-collisions with manned aircraft, which have later turned out to be false. One of the more widely reported incidents, near Heathrow, turned out to be a plastic bag.

TDC urges aviation officials to investigate any such reported collisions or near-collisions thoroughly prior to releasing any conclusions.

In this case, the damage wasn’t merely to the radome – but to an industry that prides itself on safety, innovative technology, and following the local aviation regulations.

For more details on this story – and the tale of an actual, verified collision between a military drone and a C-130, listen to our podcast.


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