Normally when we hear of an incident between a commercial aircraft and a drone, it is some irresponsible “Drone Pilot” flying way too close for comfort. While that is unsafe and reckless, it’s nothing compared to what employees of AeroVironment are accused of doing. A wrongful termination lawsuit filed in California alleges that AeroVironment employees carried an explosive laden drone on a Delta Airlines flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles back in April 2015.
“AeroVironment believes the complaint contains baseless legal claims that are without merit.”
According to Bloomberg, the lawsuit was filed by former employee, Mark Anderson who was once in charge of security for AeroVironment’s top-secret government programs. In his complaint, he alleges that not only did company employees transport the explosive drone on the aircraft but that he was fired for addressing it. According to the suit, Anderson alleges he was reprimanded, stripped of his responsibilities and ultimately fired without severance after he reported the incident to the Department of Defense.
Understandably, AeroVironment is denying everything. “AeroVironment believes the complaint contains baseless legal claims that are without merit,” Steve Gitlin, a company spokesman, told Bloomberg. The firm is committed to conducting its business “with the highest standards of ethics, safety and integrity.”
Several questions remain; most notably, “How in the world did the employees get an explosive drone thorough security?” [Insert your own TSA joke here.] Secondly, “were they fired?”
It likely that these questions will probably be answered during the course of the litigation, but it is equally likely that AeroVironment will do whatever they can to mitigate this PR nightmare by keeping particularly damning details out of the public view.
As a company that relies on the government for 55% of their revenue (according to their most recent annual report,) AeroVironment cannot afford the public anger and mistrust that could come from an incident like this.
So at this point, while it is unclear if they are denying everything or just the wrongful termination, it’s safe to say that there are more than a few lawyers earning their paycheck tonight.
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