Drone crashes into SWAT team tank during police test near Houston

There will be no doubt many more reports like this one from Houston, the real applications for day to day Policing are a little doubtful. Search and Rescue yes, but in a fast moving chase or somewhere stealth needs to be deployed we think not. sUAS cannot stand off and loiter like their bigger cousins.

In the UK Police forces have been quietly abandoning their UAS sections whilst Fire services who use platforms to check for safe ingress and hotspots continue to experiment. In urban areas the danger to the general public has to be balanced against the requirement for flight.

A Bearcat

(Conroe, Montgomery County) —  A drone has crashed during a police test flight near Houston, adding to growing safety concerns as more police departments take flight with the unmanned aircraft.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office north of Houston became one of the first police departments in the country to begin flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for police missions in October 2011.

County officials and the maker of that drone confirmed on Friday that a recent police-only photo mission went terribly wrong.

As the sheriff’s SWAT team suited up with lots of firepower and their armored vehicle known as the “Bearcat,” a prototype drone from Vanguard Defense Industries took off for pictures of all the police action.   It was basically a photo opportunity, according to those in attendance.

Read more http://www.examiner.com/page-one-in-houston/drone-crashes-into-swat-team-tank-during-police-test-near-houston

The implications of a lost link are obvious, worldwide the UAS industry suffers from a lack of dedicated frequencies for UAS command and control. Off the shelf hobby controllers can be interfered with and as we have seen in a recent UK report GPS jamming is simple and widespread.

The military version of this platform can be armed with shotgun shells and a grenade launcher, we understand the Montgomery airframe could be retrofitted with weapons.

MQ 8B Fire Scout

Flying off and armed, not the best. Its not just the little guys that have fly aways last year jets were close to being scrambled to shoot down an MQ 8B Fire Scout that had decided to go visiting.

Unmanned systems will certainly have their place in modern Policing, but not in a CSI world where almost magical powers are attributed to them.

Whilst this has a touch of slapstick to it rotary aircraft at this size are dangerous in 2003 an RC flight instructor was killed by one not far from this incident.

HOUSTON — A bizarre accident with a model helicopter killed a Houston man Sunday afternoon. 
The victim was watching the radio-controlled aircraft at Tom Bass Park in southwest Harris County. 
“They can get up to some pretty high speeds,” said Sgt. Hudson with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department.

Traffic was grounded after the accident as sheriff’s investigators tried to figure out what happened to cause the death of 41-year-old Ronald Kyle of southwest Houston. 

“He was going through some flight maneuvers with the helicopter and he turned the controls over to the student and the helicopter got away from him,” said Hudson.

Kyle was an instructor. 

The student, who police did not identify, owns the model involved in the incident. 

Its 2-inch wide blades are made of fiberglass, but the engine spins with enough power to make them dangerous — especially if the craft gets out of control — which appeared to be the case Sunday.

“Came back toward the two individuals and the helicopter struck the deceased in the throat area,” said Hudson. 

The impact of the crash killed Kyle almost immediately. 

Last April another incident involving model heli flyers caught the medias attention.

Tin hats all around in May when Police units across America are expected to start flying unmanned systems.

Those Shadowhawk Specs in Full


Basic UAS unit with CCD TV optics, standard semi-autonomous flight avionics package and turbine or piston power plant.


Upgraded UAS with day CCD TV camera as well as FLIR optics package, fully autonomous avionics package and turbine or piston power-plant.


UAS with day CCD, FLIR and thermal cameras, fully autonomous avionics and weaponized with either 40mm, 37mm grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun with laser designator (military/LE use only.)


Unavailable to non-military users.

Payload Characteristics

Sony FCB EX-980 CCDTV, 20X Zoom FLIR Photon 320, Tau UTAM-32 Thermal Camera

Semi/Full autonomous system radio link, Auto Take-off/Land, Pilot Assist Module, 30 hz Laser Altimeter, DGPS system with 2cm accuracy option.

U.S. Military and Law Enforcement consumers have less-lethal/lethal options including single or mulitple shot 37 mm/40mm grenade launcher, 12g shotgun

Airframe Characteristics

Dry Weight: 35lbs (16 kg)
Overall Length: 96 in (243.9 cm)
Height: 29.8 in (75.7 cm)
Width: 17 in (43.2 cm)
Rotor Span: 76.5 in (194.3 cm)
Usable Load: 22 lbs (10 kg)
Cruising Speed: 35 mph (56.3 kph)
Max Speed: 70 mph (112.6 kph)
Max Range: 35 miles (56 km)
Fuel Endurance: Turbine 45 min/Piston 3.5 hrs.

  3 comments for “Drone crashes into SWAT team tank during police test near Houston

  1. Rory
    5 March 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Way to easy invoke the “lost link” to cover for poor operator skills and bad maintenance. If police departments are going to be successful sUAS operators they are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they will need dedicated personnel, time and money to gain the skills required to operate these systems which can be very complex and intricate.

  2. 5 March 2012 at 4:16 pm

    This is only the beginning. In classical times the Raven was the Harbinger of death, and here we may have an omen that plays today. A rush by first responders and those willing to sell them product will add up to systems gone astray, damages and a loss of perceived privacy. The side effects of the snake oil will be much harder to hide here.

  3. 7 March 2012 at 6:37 am

    Yep there is going to be a rush at the technology which if applied simply might work. But it won’t be, watch the Police space for the XYZ department has the biggest ABC platform followed by the deepest EFG sized hole or dented thing. Lets hope due diligence is happening along with lots of flight testing. There certainly are a few departments going about it the right way though. Gentle testing and building experience platform by platform.

    I am looking forward to exposing the snake oil salesmen. No doubt there will be many.

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