by Tory Shepherd
A COOBER Pedy man flying a drone near the Woomera Prohibited Area says it was inexplicably "forced to the ground", shortly before a huge explosion and mushroom cloud in the distance.
For decades there has been weapons testing at the site, much of it top secret.
The Advertiser has confirmed that there is an exclusion zone currently in place to test military equipment.
Jason Wright, 46, was at Lake Hart with his partner Ariane Montminy-Roberge, 33, when the incident occurred on Saturday.
"We were just on our way to Adelaide and we stopped by Lake Hart to use our drone to get some footage," he said. "It was weird, the drone seems like it was forced down about a minute before the explosion. I had no control over it."
Mr Wright, who served four years in the army, said there were no planes nearby so it must have been a land-based weapon that caused the "huge orange fireball".
"It must have been 30-40km from us because it took some time for the (sound of the) explosion to get to us," he said.
"That was a huge explosion, with a mushroom cloud."
The Defence Department released a notification last month that there would be exclusions from June 11 to July 14 for weapons testing.
"For safety and security reasons, designated zones within the WPA will be closed and permit holders, existing users and the public may be required to evacuate the area," it said.
The exclusion area extends to the west of Coober Pedy and affects the Tallaringa Conservation Park.
Pastoralists, aboriginal people and people operating mines were required to evacuate the zone.
The Defence Department did not respond to questions about the explosion, or the strange behaviour of the drone.
In recent times, Defence has tested improvised explosive devices in the area, to check how military vehicles deal with the threat. There are also drones, missiles, and rockets tested.