An orange, 20-foot military drone that was found in the Upper Keys over the weekend had been shot down during a training mission in January, the U.S. Air Force said Wednesday.
Boaters discovered the drone floating in the water about a mile from the Port Largo Canal.
It was shot down at the end of January, said, Lt. Col. Lance “Blade” Wilkins, the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron commander at Tyndall Air Force Base in Pensacola, in an email to NBC 6. The object was reported missing after it went unfound for three days.
The Air Force retrieved it after it was spotted in the Keys over the weekend.
There have been over 600 launches of the BQM-167 drones since 2007, according to Wilkins.
Only sixteen of the targets have been “lost,” and nine of those were later recovered, he said.
Retrieving the targets has two purposes, he said.
“It is in the best interest of the USAF to recover these drones rapidly so that we can reuse them and maximize return on investment,” Wilkins said. “Additionally, it is our intent to remove these from the water as quickly as possible in order to ensure the safety of the Gulf and its mariners,” which include dozens of 82d members, he added.