Heron TP Drone Crashes during Test Flight

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel Air Force officials are investigating the crash of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on Sunday.

The Eitan-type Heron TP, Israel's largest and most advanced UAV, crashed near the Tel Nof Air Force Base, south of Tel Aviv, during a joint test flight sponsored Israel Aerospace Industries, and the IAF.

Investigators at the scene are determining which parts of the drone are salvageable.

IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan appointed a team to determine whether human error or a technical malfunction caused the loss of the five-ton, $5M aircraft.

The 46-foot-long drone, with its 86-foot wingspan (the size of a Boeing 747 jetliner), can reach an altitude of 41,000 feet, fly up to 20 hours nonstop and stay airborne up to 40 hours, and carry a 2,200-pound payload.

Considered the world's most advanced UAV, the Heron TP can transfer data to Israel via satellite.

The drone is scheduled to be operational by year's end and will be used primarily for intelligence gathering.

A special squadron headquartered at the Tel Nof Base is responsible for the three Eitan-type drones in the IAF's fleet.

In July, France expressed an interest in purchasing several Heron TPs.

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