How Rubber Cement Brought Down a $4.6 Million Drone

The stuff used for minor car repairs isn’t so great for affixing computer chips to aircraft.

That’s the rather weird approach to technology insertion used by the Air Force with a Predator drone that crashed in Afghanistan on May 8, 2009, according to the Air Force aerospace mishaps data base.

Some unknown soul “tacked into place” a software chip that controlled an aileron on the wings of the armed Predator, using the same kind of silicone vulcanizing rubber cement used for minor car repairs, according to the Air Force crash report. This makeshift approach was to facilitate easy removal of the chip for programming updates, the report said.

Alas, vibration in flight knocked the chip loose, which in turn knocked out operation of the aileron and led to the crash and destruction of the $4.6 million drone.

Hopefully, the folks operating the 30,000 drones expected to be operating in U.S. airspace by 2030 will not take such a slapdash approach to sticking gizmos into their unmanned aircraft.