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Air Force drone still planted in Grand Forks County field

An RQ-4 Global Hawk drone crashed into a field about 4-5 miles north of Grand Forks Air Force Base on Friday, Aug. 6. Crews are still working to recover it as of Monday, Aug. 9.

080721.n.gfh.GlobalHawk crash.jpg
The presumptive site of a RQ-4 Global Hawk, near a combine and truck, that crashed into a field about four miles north of the Grand Forks Air Force Base Friday morning is viewed from about 2 miles south of the scene. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Chris Edmonds first heard an Air Force drone had crashed into his barley field about two hours after it happened.

The 55-year-old who, coincidentally, handles on-the-ground logistics for U.S. Customs and Border Protection drone flights at Grand Forks Air Force Base, was working at the airbase around 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 6, when he heard about the crash. He leases the field from Jay Landis, a Larimore-area resident, who called around 9:30 a.m. to say that it was Edmonds’ field into which the drone crashed. Air Force public affairs claimed the crash happened around 7 a.m. in a field about 4 miles north of the base.

“Great place to park it, right?” Edmonds joked. He said he wasn’t upset and noted that the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone is unmanned and the field in which it landed is in the middle of nowhere. Other than the field itself, the closest obstacle to the crash site is apparently Edmonds’ combine, which he went out to retrieve on Monday afternoon at the Air Force’s request.

“It’s all best case scenario kind of stuff,” Edmonds told the Herald. “At the end of the day, everybody got to go home.”

Edmonds said he wasn’t sure how much damage the crash caused, but hoped it wouldn’t cut into his farming profits too badly. Landis, who’s the registered agent for the North Dakota LLLP that owns the land, could not be reached for comment.


Public affairs staff at the base on Monday did not provide any information about the crash beyond what they disclosed last week, including whether the wrecked drone is still in the field, which it is. Nearby residents reported a few dozen people were working to retrieve it.

Unlike the "Predator" and "Reaper" drones employed by the U.S. military, the Global Hawk is designed for surveillance and to aid communications.

RQ-4 Global Hawk
An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data. U.S. Air Force handout photo

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Police are asking anyone with information about the crash to call them at 701-787-8000.