A drone brought in by the Government in a bid to curb Channel crossings was reportedly found floating in the sea by fishermen after it malfunctioned.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pictured with the Tekever AR3, or a similar model, when he promised to invest an extra £50 million for measures, including aerial surveillance, to tackle the number of migrants making the journey to the UK during a speech in April in Kent.
The drone – operated by the Southampton-based company on behalf of the Home Office – is designed to be launched from ships by catapult and can remain in the air for up to 16 hours before landing by parachute.
A fisherman discovered the 5ft-long device earlier this month, strapped it to his boat and took it back to the port in Dover, according to The Sun.
The Home Office said: “We are aware of the incident involving a Tekever drone on July 5, it was recovered and the malfunction has since been corrected.
“Our ability to operate drones in the Channel has not been impacted.
“Evil criminal gangs are putting profit over people by facilitating dangerous and illegal small boat crossings and we are committed to stopping them.”
Tekever said: “During a routine drone operation, a technical malfunction was detected on one of our drones.
“We followed the necessary protocol and landed the drone safely for collection.
“The cause of malfunction has been identified and corrected.”
The gadget, training, parts and other facilities cost £420,000, The Sun – citing figures reported by Reuters – said.
Tekever disputed the figure but neither it, nor the Home Office, disclosed the cost for operating the drone or the value of the contract.
The company said it would not comment on operational matters when asked if the drone was discovered by fishermen.