As the pace of drone operations has intensified in Djibouti, Air Force mechanics have reported mysterious incidents in which the airborne robots went haywire.
In March 2011, a Predator parked at the camp started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the "brains" of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem.
"After that whole starting-itself incident, we were fairly wary of the aircraft and watched it pretty closely," an unnamed Air Force squadron commander testified to an investigative board, according to a transcript. "Right now, I still think the software is not good."
23:15:34- SENSOR -- Dude, look at this camera. Seriously, I can't do anything. There's nothing I can do. I just nuked it.
23:15:44- PILOT -- Yeah, see what you can get working and I'll plan on landing on this for now.
23:15:47- SENSOR -- There's seriously like something... This camera is completely [expletive].
23:16:41- SENSOR -- Did he say, "Cleared to land"?
23:16:42- PILOT - Yeah
23:16:44- SENSOR -- Ok. Checklist complete, links are set up, autopilots disengaged, cleared to land, try to mess with this picture.
23:17:01- SENSOR -- Yeah dude, I literally have.... No picture right now. This camera's like, completely messed up.
23:17:16- SENSOR -- Can you land on that?
23:17:17- PILOT -- Uh, I'm going around if I can't see it.
23:17:21- SENSOR -- What altitude are we at right now?
23:17:23- PILOT -- Oh
23:17:27- PILOT -- That was the ground
23:17:27- PILOT -- That was the ground.