An initial investigation suggests that the aircraft exceeded its flight restrictions. The damage is currently estimated at nearly $ 5 million.
The investigation showed the incident was apparently the result of both a human error and a technical malfunction. The drone apparently crashed after one of its wings fell off, according to the initial investigation.
The detached wing was installed with a highly-advanced device that was being tested during the drone's flight.
Brigadier-General (res.) Yehonatan Karni, one of the drone's two developers, said it may have "suddenly slowed down, and an aircraft can't hover in one place. The moment it slows down or is in an upright position – it falls from the sky."
However, he said only a thorough investigation could determine the cause of the crash.
Scene of crash (Photo: Avi Rokach)
The crash occurred during a joint Air Force and Israel Aerospace Industries drill and the aircraft came apart in the air on its way back to the Tel Nof base. A joint team has been set up to investigate the circumstances behind the accident.
"The wing fell in the orchard and the fuselage fell in the military base," the Nahal Sorek council head said. "A fire broke out because of the fuel in the aircraft but was extinguished shortly thereafter." The scene was declared a closed military zone.
"I was sitting at the office and suddenly heard a blast," says Hezi Eisen who lives nearby. "My initial thought was it was one of the crop dusters or a military aircraft from an IDF airfield."
Eisen added, "It was a pretty loud blast."
The Eitan drone is scheduled to begin operational activity soon. It has been reported that it will also provide coverage for such countries as Sudan and Iran. It has also been reported that France is interested in acquiring several such drones from Israel's Aerospace Industries.
Eitan - Israel's largest drone (Photo: Reuters)
Weighing five tons, Eitan is 14 meters long and has 26 meter-long wings. It is able to fly for 20 hours straight at a maximum speed of 143 Knots and reach a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet.
Eitan is meant to be utilized in complex intelligence gathering missions. It has already been dubbed "the most advanced UAV in the world."
In 2007, a UAV crashed near Beit Hanoun following a technical malfunction.
The IDF's use of drones has become widespread due to its abilities to provide quality video images at any given time. Its small size makes it less likely to be hit by an enemy and it is also cheaper to operate than a manned aircraft.
Aviel Magnezi contributed to this report
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