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On 25 October 2016, an instructor was supervising students in the operation of a Lockheed Martin Stalker eXtended Endurance (XE) unmanned aerial system (UAS) at the Avoca race track in Victoria.

At about 1700 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the instructor reviewed the student’s programmed mission and proceeded through the ground control station (GCS) launch wizard application. The launch wizard functions as a pre-flight checklist and ensures that all systems are ready for flight and that the mission is valid. The student then armed the aircraft for launch, pulled the aircraft back on the bungee cord and released the aircraft in accordance with the normal bungee launch procedures.

After release, the aircraft tracked straight ahead for 10 seconds according to standard operation, then climbed and commenced a right turn towards the first programmed waypoint. After passing the first waypoint, the aircraft made another right turn towards the second waypoint. About 20 seconds into the flight, the aircraft entered an uncontrolled descent from about 225 ft above ground level, and collided with the ground. The aircraft sustained substantial damage and no one was injured.

After the accident, the aircraft’s negative main power cable was found to have separated from its pin in the connector. Due to the total loss of electrical power, the aircraft was unable to maintain normal flight or conduct a safe glide landing, therefore collided with the ground.

As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft manufacturer has advised the ATSB that all battery connectors are being replaced and sacrificial pigtails are being added to the connectors, to be replaced after a number of connections. In addition, the aircraft battery circuitry is being modified to prevent arcing during connection and disconnection.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 57

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General details
Date: 25 October 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 16:58 ESuT  
Location   (show map):Avoca Race Track Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Victoria Occurrence type: Collision with terrain 
Release date: 09 February 2017 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Skunk Works 
Aircraft model: Stalker XE 
Type of operation: Aerial Work 
Sector: Remotely piloted aircraft 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
Departure point:near Maryborough, Vic.
Destination:near Maryborough, Vic.
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Last update 14 November 2018