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Weaponizable Police UAV Now Operational In Texas 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the chasing-perps-is-hard-work dept.
crackspackle writes "The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in suburban Houston, Texas is preparing to launch operations with a newly received Shadowhawk MK-III unmanned aerial vehicle, paid for by grant money received by the Department of Homeland Security. The MK-III is a product marketed for both military and law enforcement applications. Michael Buscher, chief executive officer of manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries, said this is the first local law enforcement agency to buy one of his units. '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 MK-III also has more lethal options available, capable of carrying either a 40mm or 37mm grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun with laser designator."
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Weaponizable Police UAV Now Operational In Texas

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  • This reminds me of robocop. PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON. YOU HAVE TEN SECONDS TO COMPLY. The smaller the minds the bigger the government.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:24AM (#37878146)

    You have a state that doesn't seem to mind executing people that might be innocent and where there's little concern for courts convicting innocent people in general.

    Yeah, those are the people that I'd want to be operating armed drones over my house. Thankfully, I live way away from, Texas, but this ought to scare the crap out of anybody who lives there. Precisely what happens when this thing hits somebody that isn't the intended target? Or how about collateral damage? I don't think that police forces typically arm themselves with grenade launchers in the US>

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      You have a state that doesn't seem to mind executing people that might be innocent, for political points, and where there's little concern for courts convicting innocent people in general.

      FTFY

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:45AM (#37878270)

      Precisely what happens when this thing hits somebody that isn't the intended target? Or how about collateral damage? I don't think that police forces typically arm themselves with grenade launchers in the US>

      I would expect that that the same rules that govern when the police can pull and fire his weapon would apply here. Also, there's a risk of collateral damage whenever police get in a shootout with a suspect. As in, there are a number of steps a cop must go through in ID'ing the suspect and confirming they have a weapon. And, if they don't, they are usually officially reprimanded, if not prosecuted. Contrary to popular opinion here, the percentage of cops that are corrupt or abuse their power is a very small percentage of the total police force in the US. And, including them, the number of police who actually want to shoot someone is even less.

      And actually, police forces in the US have been using grenade launcher-type weapons since the 20s or 30s to deploy tear gas. They have simple 1 shot break action type launchers akin to the M79 from Vietnam, and also multi-round, revolver type ones similar to the MM-1. And it's not just US police that use them, most modern police forces have equipment of this type. Also, many of the multi-round revolver launchers come with bean-bag rounds as well as the standard CS rounds.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        There is always that possibility, but you have an officer on site and there's accountability there. And don't forget that innocent civilians aren't typically expecting death from above. What happens if there's a glitch in the system? These presumably aren't going to be fully automated, but you still have the risk of mistakes happening, and people being vulnerable that wouldn't otherwise be vulnerable. You also don't have any information about the scene that isn't specifically accounted for by one of the sen

        • FTA

          Gage said he has no immediate plans to outfit his drone with weapons, and he also ruled out using the chopper for catching speeders.

          The people screeching the loudest seems to be pilots, which I'm reading as TV News Helicopter pilots as they are the pilots most likely to be operating in areas with ongoing police operations.

        • In other news, hackers have released a new version of the BackShadowHawk trojan, capable of taking control of both the ShadowHawk UAV and its' controller's computer. The most impressive feature is the ability to use Amazon's EC2 platform to generate false real-time images that let the controller think they've just bean-bagged a perp when they've really blown up a police car.

          Also just in, the Boy Scouts of America have successfully detonated their first nuclear device. "Be prepared" is now taking on a whole new meaning. They don't anticipate any regulatory issues, not only because of their recent victory with extending their "right to bear arms" to include 40 watt plasma rifles or anyone over the age of 8, but because, as one troop master put it "we CAN nuke them - and we're working on the 'from orbit' part."

          [ADVERTISEMENT] Target is having a sale on reactive personal armor. The MC Hammer "Can't touch this" 200kva jacket is now 70% off when you buy two or more. Fries muggers and panhandlers to a crisp. Avoids those inconvenient legal complications from "oops, wrong person" moments by not leaving any usble DNA. Batteries not included.

          Breaking news: The current president of the United States of Western America has been executed. This makes 17 presidents in 4 years. When he was initially picked by random lottery, he had said that he would not serve, and he has made good on that threat. His last words were "f*ck you all, you're totally ape-sh*t anyway." A new president is being drafted from the ranks of the homeless. In the meantime, the vice-president, who has advanced ALS, drooled when informed that she is now the acting president of the USWA. Residents are being reminded to stay indoors to avoid the draft, because in a true democracy, ANYONE can be president - and this includes YOU!

          In related news, citizens refused to remove the "Mandatory Responsible Government Balanced Budget Amendment" from the USWA constitution. Under that amendment, the President is responsible for balancing the budget within 3 months of attaining office, or be executed. "We demand responsible gobbement. And they damn well better not touch my benefits." said one voter.

          The country of Texas has announced that it will no longer inter refugees from either the Eastern Confederacy or the USWA - they will be tried and executed by mobile courts hearing cases in the back of a 45' trailer, same as the Free State of Arizona has been doing with Mexicans since before Deconstruction.

          [PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT] Relax, citizen. Everything is under control under control under control under control under ...

        • by cuncator (906265)
          The US has been unfortunately moving towards fascism ever since the 80's. It certainly seems to have accelerated recently, though.

          Tear gas is typically less than lethal. Of course I suppose that there is a remote risk of death, like with rubber bullets, but they are intended to be less than lethal, unlike grenades.

          Scott Olsen, the former Marine shot in the face with a tear gas canister, probably would have something to say about those less than lethal effects.

          The police are going through the same pains as the average worker around the globe. Under pressure from reduced budgets, they are forced to do more with less staff. This reduces community involvement and increases stress for an alr

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @11:53AM (#37879808) Journal

        Contrary to popular opinion here, the percentage of cops that are corrupt or abuse their power is a very small percentage of the total police force in the US.

        I'd say that any cop who knows about corruption or abuse is equally culpable.
        When the people tasked with upholding our laws are covering for each other,
        it significantly increases that percentage from "very small" to "what the fuck is wrong with our law enforcement officers"

    • by t2t10 (1909766)

      You have a state that doesn't seem to mind executing people that might be innocent and where there's little concern for courts convicting innocent people in general.

      And which state would that be? I don't know of any such state in the US.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by couchslug (175151)

      Non-lethal grenade launchers are common, and if there's room modern lethal launchers are respectably accurate.

      They'd be a fine way to end vehicular chases where there is room. There's no reason not to kill a fleeing robber who has no hostages.

      • by Dripdry (1062282) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:39AM (#37878650) Journal

        Wait... wait...
        did you just say what I think you said? I want to be sure you meant that, but "There's no reason not to KILL (my emphasis) a fleeing robber if he has no hostages"

        Um, maybe you're trolling, but your comment strikes me as exactly what is wrong with some scary mentality that's springing up around our nation: Guilty until proven innocent!
        And by the way, slashdotters, this is human behavior at work, so let's not villify too much, let's be pragmatic: People hold their own ideas and perception in higher regard than is typically warranted by facts. This is why courts are in place, to ensure that no one person makes a decision of life and death.

        On another note, the idea that killing someone because they robbed a place/person seems abominable IMHO. You'd take their most precious gift just because they took someone's money and/or assaulted them? Granted, they deserve punishment, but you are WAY beyond the pale here, buddy.

        I sure hope you're not a cop, if you were I'd report you to the higher-ups I know to do my part in ensuring you either a) get help or b) don't work in a police force anywhere I can help it.

        • by 0111 1110 (518466)

          I sure hope you're not a cop, if you were I'd report you to the higher-ups I know to do my part in ensuring you either a) get help or b) don't work in a police force anywhere I can help it.

          The cops would just laugh at you. And maybe target you for harassment. There are cops who have been caught on tape beating people up and who have even been found guilty in court who are still working as cops. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a cop in any trouble? It's almost impossible. Part of the reason is district attorneys almost universally refuse to prosecute cops because their job depends on working closely with them. Also keep in mind that if you did by some miracle manage to get a bad cop

        • by tqk (413719)

          You'd take their most precious gift just because they took someone's money and/or assaulted them?

          The way I read it is he'd advocate this course for anyone suspected of robbery. I guess that puts every criminal defence attorney out of business. No need for any of that bother now. "Hello, 911? My next door neighbour just stole my lawnmower. Could you please lob a grenade into his living room? Kay, thanks, bye."

  • BigBrothers budget is set to fall.

    Fair is fair; you can build one yourself:
    http://diydrones.com/ [diydrones.com]

    • by timeOday (582209)
      This will be sold as a cost-cutting measure, since a few guys operating a UAV can see a wider area than 10 guys on the ground. Or the cost could be compared to a police helicopter [officer.com].
  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:31AM (#37878196)

    The MK-III also has more lethal options available, capable of carrying either a 40mm or 37mm grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun with laser designator."

    What the hell does law enforcement need a 37mm/40mm grenade launcher attached to a remote-controlled UAV for? Whatever, moving on.

    Between the political disarray of congress, the chain of administrations that spend exorbitant amounts of money on things the people don't really need, the majority of police officers who are little more than petty thugs/tools, TSA groping children in airports and performing unwarranted, "random" searches on the street, media hype/sensationalism which constantly keeps the dumb majority of the public distracted, the incredibly skewed distribution of wealth, and an overall government with a cracked model of democracy that has it's hands in way too many cookie jars, I can't say I want to live in this country any longer. It's turning into a police state, and people should not have to fear the peace keepers, law makers, or individuals which hold powerful, public offices.

    All in all, everything happening now is a perfect recipe for chaos, and I doubt anybody will realize it until it's too late.

    P.S. I like the police. They keep the peace, and living in a large city, I am grateful for that. But the majority of police officers do not deserve the title - they are frequently loose cannons, act only on instinct or emotion, pick/choose what laws they enforce when they want to enforce them, and frequently ignore laws / people's rights just to further their own agenda, career, or case. I'm friends with a few cops (detectives, actually), and some of them are good guys who I can personally say have never violated anybody's rights, but, unfortunately, they are few and far between. I'd be fairly surprised if the "good cops" make up more than 20% of the force at any given precinct across the country.

    P.S.S. "Chaos. Good news."

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      the chain of administrations that spend exorbitant amounts of money on things the people don't really need

      Examples? Besides the obvious military ones?

    • by foobsr (693224)

      All in all, everything happening now is a perfect recipe for chaos, and I doubt anybody will realize it until it's too late.

      At least you did. Sadly, however, this only qualifies (P.P.S. [proz.com] and sig considered) for psychological treatment these days.

      CC.

    • by 3vi1 (544505)

      >> What the hell does law enforcement need a 37mm/40mm grenade launcher attached to a remote-controlled UAV for? Whatever, moving on.

      Enforcing software patents.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Yup BSA raids. nothing like firing a couple of CS grenades in the face of the IT department guys when you respond to a call that they are re-using Office 2003 licenses on new computers.

        Scumbag IT guys.

      • And catching pirates, you can't forget about the pirates.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      The majority of police officers are not thugs. What a fucked up thing to say. The majority of police are good and decent people. Now admittedly there are thugs in the Police forces just as they exist everywhere and sometimes even the decent cops snap and make mistakes but to make a statement like that is inexcusable.

      • Until i actually see one cop arrest another cop on-scene for blatant abuse of power, the perception will continue. While there are good cops, they dont do jack shit about their evil brethren. Look up the Kelly Thomas case, 4 officers stood around while 2 other officers BEAT HIM TO DEATH.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Explain Oakland Police then.

      • by xs650 (741277)
        The majority of police officers will cover for their thug and screw up fellow officers, therefore they are also corrupt officers. That is what is inexcusable.
      • by Larryish (1215510)

        When a "good cop" covers up the actions of a "bad cop", for whatever reason, the line between "good cop" and "bad cop" becomes blurred.

      • The majority may not be active thugs, but they are at the very least silent enablers. Look at what happened to NYPD's Adrian Schoolcraft: he secretly recorded roll call, exposing police corruption. After he let the public know the truth, several officers--including supervisory officers--concocted stories to arrest him and forcibly commit him to psychiatric care.

        To the best of my knowledge, not a single one stepped up and said "hey, he's telling the truth."

        Enablers, the lot of them, and that puts them squa

      • by HiThere (15173)

        It is excessive, but not unreasonably so. When someone defends a thug, even passively, that someone is not innocent. Most police refuse to so much as say a word against a comrade who does anything short of murder...and I'm not sure about that.

        Calling them thugs is excessive. Accomplices? They are clearly "accessories after the fact", and sometimes appear to be "accessories before the fact". Under law that makes them equally guilty. (Not that law gets applied to the police very often.)

        If the laws were

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      When I was young everyone wanted to go to the USA. Most of them even considered staying there. But today, this is different. They find it absolutely crazy to go there and that is about the young.

    • The time is very near when we shall have to dust this one off and use it for its original purpose: to check the physical power of the government.

      Yes, a couple guys with hunting rifles are not going to seriously challenge a military with tanks and jets. But there are millions and millions of those guys, and they all know how to shoot well enough to bring down even SEAL Team 6. Also, tanks and jets are pretty useful when you want to completely, indiscriminately flatten someone else's cities, but they're not

    • P.S. I like the police. They keep the peace, and living in a large city, I am grateful for that. But the majority of police officers do not deserve the title - they are frequently loose cannons

      I feel sorry for you. In the places I have lived the vast majority of the police have been good people who really do want to do the right thing. Sometimes they screw up, and once in a great while there's the rare bad apple, but on the whole they've always been great.

      Maybe that is one of the differences between living

      • by toriver (11308)

        But are the bad apples and the screw-ups ever punished? That's the real question here: Will the good cops arrest the bad cops, or will they just look the other way?

    • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Saturday October 29, 2011 @05:10PM (#37882076)

      It's not that the majority of the police are "loose cannons". Most of them aren't. But they won't discipline those who are, either. And one person doing harm can do a lot more harm that a dozen people doing good will counterbalance.

      They are, often, accessories after the fact. This isn't equally culpable as accessory before the fact, but it sure isn't innocent, either.

  • Copseyes! Obscure reference?
  • This is going to be great for Texas. Their law enforcement productivity has been down lately because the court system has been a bottleneck in processing the whole tips->executions pipeline, but this tool has the potential to bypass almost all of that. They should be able to go from anonymous tip to taking out a crack house with a grenade in mere minutes.
    • by 3vi1 (544505)

      I know you're joking, but as a Texan I must point out that we'd never bypass the justice system unless the video from the drone showed with a high degree of probability that the suspect appeared to be mentally retarded.

      • I must point out that we'd never bypass the justice system unless the video from the drone showed with a high degree of probability that the suspect appeared to be mentally retarded.

        How much melanin does it take to make someone retarded?

  • by rotide (1015173) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:37AM (#37878228)

    Really is amazing to watch just how far and wide the military/state is invading citizens lives.

    I know there is a happy medium between no security and full blown police state, but I'm sure we passed that line and we're accelerating towards the latter. I also know that _every_ great nation has fallen. Maybe they don't totally die, get conquered, etc, but they certainly become shadows of their former selves. Are we on the slide down now? Are we past our prime? Can we recover? I understand that anything is possible, but does it look likely or even plausible given our political climate in the US? What would it take to make things "right" again (yes, I know there are multiple views of what this means)?

    Am I just rambling and making no sense after just waking up on a Saturday?

    • by ZankerH (1401751) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:57AM (#37878354)

      Are we past our prime?

      Definitely. Depends on who you ask, but most historians agree the USA was at its prime either during the interbellum, or the WWII - late 1950's period.

    • The US have been on the way down for a while now. If you ask me, the pinnacle was reached with the moonshot.

      But the US are an oil tanker. Even with the engines off, momentum takes you forwards a long, long while. Only problem is, once it stopped it's going to take a lot of effort and fuel to just get it moving again, and that's probably when people will be very unwilling to actually invest that. They'd have to invest a lot without getting anything close to the investment back in terms of momentum.

      Personally

    • by astar (203020)

      Lots of different stories.

      On sept 22, 2011, I sent a letter to the local paper about the disarray going into the DC G-20. The tag was "what will happen". I regard statistical predictions as rather silly for anything interesting, but kind of a dynamic directionality is useful to look at. So looking at the financial collapse, there is a possibility of a lot of non-economic stuff happening. If you go to wikipedia you can find by my last count 17 different definitions of (Goodwin). My definition is (Goodwi

  • The drive to College Station was alway wrought with speed traps and cops dumber than Barny Fife. Now we have RoboCop. Living in Texas is aaaawesome.

  • Wrong story (Score:5, Informative)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:43AM (#37878264) Journal
    The story isn't the drone. The story should be that the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Conroe, TX just paid $300,000 for a R/C helicopter from a company that just happens to be in Conroe, TX, [vanguarddefense.com] with a business website has only been in operating for a year. [godaddy.com]

    Police giving $300,000 to new local company for a toy? Why do I feel like this was a scam, that someone in the police force just made $250,000+?
    • by iamhassi (659463)
      And please understand I'm not bashing the idea of R/C helicopter drones for police use, I believe anything to get rid of police helicopters is a great idea because helicopters are horribly expensive. An inexpensive police helicopter costs 700k+ (pdf) [robinsonheli.com] and can easily reach millions and costs about $2,500 an hour to operate. [foxnews.com] So you can see how a drone could pay for itself in no time.
      • by xclr8r (658786)
        I'll take the higher expense helicopter.
        I don't want 50 of these drones flying over a city near you.
        I want one person, the pilot, solely responsible for that flying vehicle in the air where his neck is on the line - so he can say with certainty "this vehicle is not fit to fly due to maintenance/etc.". Not some gamer cop that can blame the failed operation on a Windows (non systems critical operations O/S) blue screen or wireless interference. Or lose control of the vehicle to a cracker who will turn th
    • The money came from a Homeland Security grant.

  • I wonder how secure they are, it would be pretty bad if some of them got hacked by malicious people.

    • by prefec2 (875483)

      All the stuff the government uses is totally save. Look at the German Trojan Horse. errr. never mind.

  • by khallow (566160) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @08:48AM (#37878288)
    "Weaponizable" just means that you can add a weapon, not that the vehicle has one. Police departments already have plenty of "weaponizable" things, you can add rocket launchers to patrol cars or give a nuclear bomb to a patrol officer. (Yes, that's right, a patrol officer can destroy an entire city! You heard it here first!)

    FWIW, the police department has described uses that don't use weapons (various recon/patrol functions), while the CEO of the business pumped the weaponization capabilities. Could a future police department have a fleet of armed UAVs? Absolutely. But that hasn't happened yet.
    • by prefec2 (875483)

      It is bad enough that it is an UAV for surveillance purposes. I do not want to have flying UAVs or MAVs flying over my town. And I want a demilitarized zone inside my city.

  • A remote controlled aircraft armed with a shotgun fired by someone sitting comfortably in a chair. I think we heard of a similar program there some years ago that intended to "bring hunting to the disabled". Now they just changed the prey...
  • Urban unrest (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is not designed for regular policing, and would have little if any use in day to day operations. Helicopters are used for large sporting events to coordinate resources on the ground with the aerial view giving a big picture. But TFA does not even try to use this justification. The words used are 'hunting criminals', and ` SWAT team officers are facing an active shooter`

    I've never been to the states so I do not know how frequent these events are, but imagine not frequent enough to justify this type of a

  • "engage somebody at altitude" with a hand to hand weapon? Does this UAV transform into a humanoid? Or maybe they plan on stunning skydivers (who then can't pull their ripcords).
  • by prefec2 (875483) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:14AM (#37878446)

    The best thing to keep the crowd down is divide and conquer and of course good surveillance and a quick response force. But surveillance is of greatest importance. It is required for the divide and conquer strategy and it is important for the quick response force. So to achieve the required basics for a totalitarian system you need such stuff.

    On the other hand. Democracy works best with out suppression and a homogeneous economic situation for the people, meaning the poor and the rich are not that far apart.

    However, in modern western societies, we decided that it is not a problem that the poorer get poorer and that there are more poor people every day, so democracy is no longer working. In a democracy the rich could not get away with so much money. This has nothing to do with jealousy. I do not need my own yacht or villa. Actually I am quite comfortable. The problem is that there are so many people who are not "quite comfortable". They suffer. And they are angry. Right now they are not organized and they are not able to fight for themselves. As this might chance, the state (as in the control structure) has to ensure the safety of those who are "quite comfortable" or above.

    In a state (as in the organization of the people for common interests) would obviously address the issue and get the money from the rich for all those necessities of life. Healthcare, pensions, streets, schools, universities, unemployment insurance/guaranteed minimal income, and safety (as in safety for all) etc. BTW a good guaranteed minimal reduces violence and increases safety.

  • I'm not a gun expert by far, but... is high accuracy really applicable to a shotgun?

    • by GigG (887839)

      I'm not a gun expert by far, but... is high accuracy really applicable to a shotgun?

      It is if you want to hit anything.

    • It's quite accurate... if you don't care who or what you hit and only want to hit some of the protesters so the rest disperses...

  • I hope this thing, and any like them, gets shot out of the sky and destroyed by citizens who still care about the constitution.

  • It will be only a short time before drug lords and other baddies start getting anti aircraft missiles to take out the UAV's.

    Do we really want the police encouraging the criminals to upgrade weaponry?

  • If they want to go that route, I'll find a way to shoot the bitch down and laugh. Montgomery County UAV vs. RPG!
  • Not to worry when the come to get me I will just hide in my bunker with all my guns ..... oh wait ....
  • Ever notice how when you read about this bullshit, it is paid for from Federal funds ? The answer, of course, is simple - local citizens tend to object if too much money is wasted on bullshit toys, the Feds don't really care, the cops like their gadgets and SWAT teams, and the vendors, and their lobbyists, are tickled pink. This practice started in 1968 with the Omnibus Crime Bill; 43 years of the experiment of massive Federal subsidies of local police shows that it is totally value-subtracting and should b

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