Crash grounds agency’s drone fleet

Unmanned aircraft deliberately set down 20 miles off Point Loma

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo U.S. Customs Border Patrol Air and Marine Division Deputy Director Supervisory AIA Pete McNall checks the camera on the Predator drone unmanned aerial vehicle at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., prior to a night mission. Leaps in unmanned aircraft technology have military authorities clamoring to use drones for everything from coastal patrols and border surveillance to tracking natural disasters, but fears of midair collisions are slowing any broad expansion of their domestic use. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A fleet of drones that patrols the nation’s borders and coastlines has been grounded following the second crash of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection unmanned aircraft, which took place late Monday about 20 miles off Point Loma.

The drone, a Guardian UAS Maritime Variant Predator B aircraft worth about $12 million, was deliberately downed after a mechanical failure jeopardized its safe return to its home base in Sierra Vista, Ariz., said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel.

The aircraft broke apart on impact in the Pacific, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Henry Dunphy. His agency sent a cutter to secure the area and make sure no boats would hit the wreckage while debris was retrieved. No person or other object was involved in the incident, officials said.

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