Law enforcement technologyTexas county police buys drone that can carry weapons

Published 31 October 2011

The police in Montgomery County — and area north of Houston, Texas — is the first local police in the United States to deploy a drone that can carry weapons; the police says it will be used in chases of escaping criminals and tracking drug shipments

Vanguard's ShadowHawk UAV helicopter // Source: hilavitkutin.com

The police in Montgomery County – and area north of Houston, Texas – is the first local police in the united States to deploy a drone that can carry weapons.

The ShadowHawk from Vanguard Defense Industries is a pilot-less helicopter remotely controlled by an operator using a game console-like, laptop size device. The drone was purchased with a $300,000 grant from DHS.

The Montgomery police says it will be used in chases of escaping criminals and tracking drug shipments.

Michael Buscher, chief executive officer of manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries, told the Examiner that Montgomery County is the first local law enforcement agency to buy one of his units.

He said they are designed to carry weapons for local law enforcement. “The aircraft has the capability to have a number of different systems on board. Mostly, for law enforcement, we focus on what we call less lethal systems,” he said, including Tazers that can send a jolt to a criminal on the ground or a gun that fires bean bags known as a “stun baton.”

You have a stun baton where you can actually engage somebody at altitude with the aircraft. A stun baton would essentially disable a suspect,” he said.

The Examiner notes that in September 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a 73-page report that raised issues about police drones endangering airspace for small planes or even commercial airliners.

Pilots of small aircraft have expressed concerns that drones cannot practice the see-and-avoid rule that keeps aircraft from colliding in mid-air. Since the drone’s camera may be aimed somewhere else, pilots said police controllers may not be able to see and avoid other aircraft in the area during a sudden police emergency.

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