Montgomery County crashed a drone into their SWAT team tank. I suppose we should just be grateful that it was a tank they crashed into instead of an officer or even an innocent civillian.
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.
Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said his company’s prototype drone was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground. It’s designed to go into an auto shutdown mode, according to Buscher, but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle.
The damage was not severe, according to Buscher, who described only some ‘blade strikes’ on the prototype drone that was being shown off to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s team.
Maybe Tom Kirkendall has a point when he questions whether the Montgomery County Sherriffs Department has too much money. Montgomery County is just north of Houston’s Harris County and has some high value taxable lands in the Woodlands and parts of Kingwood. Apparently the county received a Obaman TARP grant to buy one of these things. So it isn’t just Montgomery county citizens paying for this thing, but all of us. Do they really need tanks and drones?
Seems like they hold little regard for the people they are supposed to protect and serve. The safety of a drone will never achieve the safety of real piloted aircraft. Pilots know that any chances taken with an aircraft endangers their life first. A drone operator has little at stake. The GAO has looked these droned with skeptism, and spoke of the risks involved.
In the 2008 GAO study, Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation for GAO said,
“The concern is that you could lose control of that aircraft and it could crash into something on the ground or, in fact, it could crash into another air vehicle.”
The GAO study found that 65% of drone crashes were caused by mechanical failures. The study analyzed Pentagon and NASA data on 199 crashes of drones on battlefields.
Before this Montgomery County crash, the only crash of a law enforcement drone was recorded in 2006 in Nogales, Arizona. The Customs & Border Protection flight crashed in the desert due to the same “lost link” scenario that sent the Montgomery County unit crashing into its SWAT team tank.
When the link between the drone and the control console on the ground is lost, all drones are designed to steady up and glide to a landing. In some cases, the drones already have a location programmed in for landing in the event of a problem. In others, there is no such pre-determined landing zone.
Dillingham said that’s another dangerous problem with drones in urban areas. He said,
“If you’re onboard the aircraft, you can tell that you’re in turbulence and you can maneuver to get the plane or the aircraft out of the turbulence. But if you’re using a UAV and there are no sensors aboard, you don’t really know that and, again, if you lose that communication link as a result of that turbulence or for any other reason, then you have an aircraft that is not in control and can, in fact, crash into something on the ground or another aircraft.”
Montgomery Sheriffs Department had no comment.