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Bringing the toys home
October 31, 2011 12:11 PM   Subscribe

The Sheriff's Office in Montgomery County, Texas near Houston has become the first law enforcement agency to buy a weaponizable Shadowhawk MK-III UAV.

The UAV's manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries offers a variety of 'less lethal' weapons for law enforcement, such as a gun that fires bags called 'stun batons' or a taser, and presumably stun grenades, although the Sheriff's Office says they don't plan on deploying those options.
posted by jeffburdges (116 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
"No matter what we do in law enforcement, somebody's going to question it, but we're going to do the right thing, and I can assure you of that," he said.

Phew!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2011 [15 favorites]


Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said, "I'm tickled to death" about using the drone

I admire the author's restraint in not identifying all interviewed officers solely by their xbox gamertags.
posted by elizardbits at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2011 [35 favorites]


Texas, huh? What a shock.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2011


I'm shocked, shocked:
Montgomery County is one of the most heavily Republican counties in Texas, giving 78.1% of its vote to George W. Bush in 2004[3] and giving 75.8% of its vote to John McCain in 2008.[4] The county has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since native Texan Lyndon Johnson won 60.9% of the county's vote in 1964.[5]
posted by kmz at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like the police have themselves an RV.
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2011 [22 favorites]


I was just thinking "You know what we need of? Flying, murder-bots."

Way to go 21st Century.
posted by The Whelk at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Looks like the police have themselves an RV.

And the quarterback is toast!

Favorite line from that movie.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


a game-like console is used to aim and zoom a powerful camera

Unmentioned is the game it is like: pheasant
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


OMG
posted by Edogy at 12:21 PM on October 31, 2011


The scariest thing: what they're not telling you is that the control system is actually a Kinect.
posted by kmz at 12:21 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Montgomery County is one of the most heavily Republican counties in Texas, giving 78.1% of its vote to George W. Bush in 2004[3] and giving 75.8% of its vote to John McCain in 2008.[4]

...gonna be 100% as soon as they can get that drone weaponized.
posted by goethean at 12:21 PM on October 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


"he also ruled out using the chopper for catching speeders.
"We're not going to use it for that," he said."

posted by doctornemo at 12:23 PM on October 31, 2011


Seriously, you will not be able to hit shit accurately with a taser from an airborne platform.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's Texas, they'll mount a miniature Vulcan cannon on the damn thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


He said a police UAV could lose its link to the ground controllers if wind knocks the aircraft out of range or the radio frequencies are disrupted.

Or the radio frequencies are disrupted, you say? Hmmm.

HMMMMMMM.
posted by mhoye at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2011 [14 favorites]


Somebody stop the nation-state. I want to get off.
posted by brennen at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


My guess is that we'll be seeing stuff like this everywhere before too much longer.

I mean, you have this company...with this bit inside.
posted by jquinby at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011


300k? Plus operating expenses? Ignore everything else, that's just a colossal waste of money. How often do they reasonably have a use for an airborne surveillance platform?

('cause yeah, Ironmouth is right - you won't be tazering people from the air)
posted by JPD at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


While my sources haven't come up with anything about the approval of this drone, I have managed to get some hidden camera footage of this project's predecessor.
posted by griphus at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"We're not going to use it to be invading somebody's privacy. It'll be used for situations we have with criminals[.]"

Good to know they bought the Convit-o-meter 5000 add-on.
posted by yerfatma at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brings a new definition to "Speed limit strictly enforced".
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damnit, Convict-o-meter
posted by yerfatma at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Alternatively: Finally, we can put at end to the Red Foreman/Leland Palmer crime spree.)
posted by griphus at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2011


The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Conroe paid $300,000 in federal homeland security grant money and Friday it received the ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter made by Vanguard Defense Industries of Spring.
1986 Bell 206B-III JetRanger. $295,000. Seats five.
posted by stavrogin at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


This was pretty obvious from the very start. Institutions and businesses have been pouring too much money into UAVs to limit their usage to theaters of war. If you don't see UAVs assisting police officers, issuing traffic tickets and patrolling streets with 24-7 audio/visual surveillance in the next 15-20 years I'd be surprised.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


Seriously, you will not be able to hit shit accurately with a taser from an airborne platform.

That's why you shotgun them into crowds. No need to aim. And the crowds will be vandals and rioters outside of the free speech zones, so only traitors like the ACLU would argue against that kind of force.

I still have this comment from a domestic-drones thread last year filed in the part of my brain I use to store things that I'd like to look back at one day and feel happily foolish about ever being so cynical. But in the meantime I still place most of my quatloos on it being an accurate prediction.
posted by Drastic at 12:32 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


1986 Bell 206B-III JetRanger. $295,000. Seats five.

But that there's got one a them red communist leaf flags painted on it!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:33 PM on October 31, 2011


Why couldn't they just hire three beat cops instead? Sounds like a robot took thur jobs.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:34 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, you will not be able to hit shit accurately with a taser from an airborne platform.

Yeah, I don't see individual accuracy as their main concern here. I assume it's crowd control as needed and surveillance the rest of the time.
posted by elizardbits at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2011


They will probably outfit it with an IR camera, and do fly-overs of various neighborhoods looking for grow ops.

There is also a serious proposal to use drones to patrol the US's southern border.

The FAA is beginning to license drones but with several restrictions.

This is a solution in search of a problem.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Video of the next-gen drone.
posted by ryoshu at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2011


Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel was also quoted as saying "Neeeaaawww dakka dakka dakka BOOM!" while making flying motions with his arms.
posted by scruss at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2011 [11 favorites]


stavrogin:1986 Bell 206B-III JetRanger. $295,000. Seats five.

Just to play devil's advocate here- against that JetRanger, it seems like the UAV might be a wise investment. I live in a city with six police helicopters (at least, six owned by the city.) They are called upon often to spot from the air, shine a searchlight, whatever- the things you would normally expect a police helicopter to need to do. If a drone were capable of replacing a police heli, wouldn't it be a good idea? That's a lot of savings in fuel, maintenance, and pilot safety.

I'm not sure if the UAV mentioned here can carry a spotlight or whatever, and maybe it doesn't have the ability to loiter in a tight enough circle to replace a heli entirely. And of course this is Texas and the UAV may be an utterly unnecessary piece of kit for the boys to play with. But I don't think that a department owning a UAV is a bad thing by itself.
posted by aaronbeekay at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Montgomery County, Texas? The county so classy it named one of its towns Cut and Shoot?
posted by rh at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2011


The Libyan adventure gave us valuable experience in the use of drones over urban centers.
posted by Trurl at 12:42 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Give me your tired, your poor, your not-yet-shot
posted by Cerulean at 12:42 PM on October 31, 2011


Just to play devil's advocate here- against that JetRanger, it seems like the UAV might be a wise investment. I live in a city with six police helicopters (at least, six owned by the city.) They are called upon often to spot from the air, shine a searchlight, whatever- the things you would normally expect a police helicopter to need to do. If a drone were capable of replacing a police heli, wouldn't it be a good idea? That's a lot of savings in fuel, maintenance, and pilot safety.


This is true. I just don't think it is wise to be tasing people from the air.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


In completely unrelated Montgomery County news, sales of baseball bats sold "for pinata purposes only" have surged by 900%.
posted by item at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just about to say the same thing as aaronbeekay. It's a cheaper almost helicopter for following cars (avoiding high speed chase) and doing search and rescue that happens to have mounting points for weapons, which they haven't actually used.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every sheriff carries a sidearm (and usually a back-up gun, too), a nightstick and tear gas. The officer will often be carrying ~50 rounds for the sidearm. In the car, there will be a shotgun and, very often, a semi-automatic assault rifle, and many, many more rounds for all the weapons. Moreover, each officer is equipped with a radio, with which they can call similarly-armed individuals.

And we're suddenly worried about an RC helicopter?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:46 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just in time for Occupy Conroe.
posted by NorthernLite at 12:46 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


aaronbeekay, but for $300k? It's just an RC helicopter with a camera on it.
posted by stavrogin at 12:46 PM on October 31, 2011


This is a solution in search of a problem.
This is a solution to the defense contractor's marketing problem.

Back when I worked in A/R, our little dress manufacturer had three or four big customers, who were responsible for 70-80 percent of sales, and a bunch of little customers, who were responsible for the rest. That was a problem, 'cause if any of those big customers decided to take their trade elsewhere, we were SOL.

So the sales staff would work hard to build those little accounts, and add more of them.

Same thing with defense contractors, particularly in the Age of Obamausterity.
posted by notyou at 12:48 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if it will be able to hunt down the person who just ripped-off their county for $300,000?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:49 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't quite understand the outrage (and I usually get outraged about these things). It sounds like they're going to be using this just like they'd use any police helicopter, albeit with far greater flexibility, less expense, less fuel, and less risk to the operator/folks on the ground.

It also sounds like this could have some useful lifesaving, firefighting, and search-and-rescue applications. If they can save one life, this thing has already paid for itself (and, seriously, $300k is probably in the ballpark of the yearly cost of adding one officer and a car to the force; it's not much.)

Here in DC, we have helicopters buzzing over our heads all the time. The only ones I don't mind are the police copters. They've actually got a pretty good track record for providing useful assistance to officers on the ground. If police departments in small communities can get the same kind of assistance, that's awesome.

I'm also envisioning a system where small communities can own a UAV, but have it piloted by somebody far away in a centralized command center, in the rare instances when it is needed. That way, small police departments can have the benefit of air support on short notice, without the expense of hiring a pilot.

If they're going to weaponize the thing, we can have that discussion, although it's not currently relevant to the conversation, because they're not going to. My local fire department could hypothetically strap a howlitzer onto one of their fire engines, but they're not going to, because that would be crazy. Are we really getting worked up because the UAV can carry a payload? I agree that it's disturbing that the company wants to market airborne tazers; however, I don't see this department seriously exploring that option.
posted by schmod at 12:52 PM on October 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Longer range taser. Fired out of a shotgun, like the 'stun batons'. Not sayin' this is a good idea, but this could be what they are talking about.
posted by procrastination at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2011


OMFG at notyou's link.

9-11 came just in the knick of time for the defense industry, which was facing the prospect of a second straight decade of depressed demand

Well, thank god for 9-11, hey? Or else we'd be down to 159 gajillion in defense spending. Of course they actually got bin Laden with a couple of Navy SEALs and automatic weapons but who's counting.
posted by NorthernLite at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2011


Man, I've never been happier to have nothing to hide. Does anyone have any advice on how I can be an *even better* citizen?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where is the NRA when you need them? I want the right to own an anti-aircraft battery and a closet full of stinger missiles!

Now what happens when the drug gangs get UAVs too?
posted by spitbull at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2011


Of course they actually got bin Laden with a couple of Navy SEALs and automatic weapons but who's counting.

To be fair, they used a totally batshit intense helicopter.
posted by spitbull at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2011


300k? Plus operating expenses? Ignore everything else, that's just a colossal waste of money. How often do they reasonably have a use for an airborne surveillance platform?

The operating expenses are what kill you for manned flight. Purchase price almost doesn't matter. After a couple of thousand hours, operation will overwhelm purchase price for many aircraft. If the drone operating costs are under $10,000/hr, it's a steal compared to a helicopter or a spotter plane.
posted by bonehead at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell, we're worried about the distance an RC device places between the people we trust to keep law and order and ourselves.

The officers with all those radios and weapons usually must come within speaking and eye contact distance to engage suspects. As we've seen recently in the US and elsewhere, this is obviously no guarantee that the officer will refrain from striking those who do not deserve it with the mailed fist of the state, but we've also seen recently that sometimes -- sometimes -- officers on the ground will stay their hands when they're made aware that they're acting against fellow humans.

An officer observing indistinct figures on a display miles away from the scene has only the thinnest of connections to her or his fellow humans. That officer might as well be playing CoD on the XBox. I work in a field where the term "gamification" gets said far too often in meetings, but I can see how it applies to the work I do...sometimes. I think it's a term that should never have any relevance whatsoever to law enforcement or peacekeeping.

And I've seen too much in my lifetime to trust that the UAVs will remain unweaponized. Officers already have a ton of weapons they rarely need -- per your example -- so I could see them arguing "Because terrorism, that's why" and getting the greenlight to arm the UAV with the same caliber of weaponry human officers carry "only to be used in extreme emergencies", of course.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if the UAV mentioned here can carry a spotlight or whatever, and maybe it doesn't have the ability to loiter in a tight enough circle to replace a heli entirely.

It's a helicopter. It can hover.

It's a cheaper almost helicopter for following cars (avoiding high speed chase)

I really doubt the ground station has sufficient range to make that feasible.

I'm laughing so hard that they managed to blow $300,000 on a model helicopter and ground station. Also wondering how I can get in on this scam.
posted by indubitable at 1:06 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


And we're suddenly worried about an RC helicopter?

I don't think it is a sudden worry. A lot of people have been worried about drones and what their eventual civilian applications would be. Regardless, it is actually possible to worry about heavily armed police misusing their authority and drone-armed police misusing the same authority.

Montgomery County is one of the most heavily Republican counties in Texas

Right. Because only Republicans believe in the surveillance state. And drones. I wouldn't be shocked if this happened in any given county in the U.S. I wouldn't be more or less shocked if it was a Republican leaning county or Democratic leaning county.

What does it take for people to see when it comes to the question of outrageous surveillance and police tactics there are no party lines? On these issues, the divide only exists in talking points, stump speeches and healthy helpings of total bullshit.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


Seriously, you will not be able to hit shit accurately with a taser from an airborne platform.

Very accurate tear gas attacks may be feasible, though.
posted by atbash at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2011


The Latin-O-Vision© module drove the price up.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2011


I was going to post something snarky but...

The story seems a bit inflammatory, sure the police could attach weapons to it but they have not, and according to them are not planning to.

Yeah yeah yeah, I know I know.. lying slimy cops and all that.

I'd be a bit of a hypocrite to say I was bothered by an unmanned drone flying over my neighborhood, seeing as how I fly my RC electric glider out of a soccer park with a keychain camera mounted on it.

The only thing I don't like is that because of the increasing use of these drones, the FAA wants to regulate their use, and some dunderheaded bureaucrat now thinks that hobby RC pilots should be included in said regulations along with drones like this one.
posted by smoothvirus at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2011


I am relived, absolutely relieved, that as our schools are cutting programs left and right for lack of funding, that there are "federal homeland security grants" in place so that boys who never grew up can buy their toys at the taxpayer's expense. And here I was worried about our future.

I would've thought $300k would be better spent educating a classroom of students for a year, instead of buying a giant RC chopper. But what do I know?
posted by xedrik at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is also a serious proposal to use drones to patrol the US's southern border.

You already have one patrolling the north.

That same article reports that Texas acquired domestic-use drones as far back as 2008, but that they were grounded by the FAA for technical issues.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2011


What does it take for people to see when it comes to the question of outrageous surveillance and police tactics there are no party lines?

Don't be silly. Of course there are party lines.

When Practice X is done by the Other Party, it is evil. When it is done by Our Party, it is pragmatic.
posted by Trurl at 1:30 PM on October 31, 2011


Everyday it feels more and more likely that we're destined to re-enact the plot of Half-Life.
posted by pwally at 1:32 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are an awful lot of homemade UAVs that could be turned into inexpensive police helicopters without going for a weaponizable model made by Vanguard Defense Industries.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:41 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's going to be a challenge to fly this thing legally in US airspace. In general UAVs aren't allowed to fly in the national airspace. And airspace is a federal resource, the good policemen of Montgomery County don't have jurisdiction. Anyone know under what rules these 50 pound helicopters can even fly? It's not like the border patrol drones.
posted by Nelson at 1:54 PM on October 31, 2011


Montgomery County, Texas? The county so classy it named one of its towns Cut and Shoot?
posted by rh at 2:39 PM on October 31 [+] [!]


Hey, I live here in MoCo. Not Cut and Shoot, but The Woodlands which is a nice place for white people who like trees and like driving an hour and a half to get to work in Houston.

This is pretty disturbing, but not as much as the lynch mob mentality of my neighbors on the Montgomery County Police Reporter Facebook Page. Granted, the ones that make the most noise get the most attention so I don't consider that an accurate representation, but still, it's interesting to watch. Lots of marijuana fields going up in flames-- it just grows outside so no need for the IR camera, I don't think.

I'm moving out next month though-- one county south to Houston.
posted by jschu at 1:56 PM on October 31, 2011


I'm glad that once Mexico goes full hardcore war, the US will be able to send unarmed drones over the longest stretch of concrete walling in the free world. 31/10/2013

[Hint: this drone is not the drone you're looking for - I suspect full spectrum dominance in terms of heat signatures and so on will be used to perv on sunbathing ladies]

I want to live in a world where the gullible hold the cheque books, and the smart repeatedly make bullshit up to sell to them. And when it all fails, they shrug, use the law to their advantage and move onto the next scam.


p.s. This tech is defeatable by a single radio antenna. If you know what you're doing.
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 1:56 PM on October 31, 2011


As if I needed to see further evidence that American "law enforcement" doesn't know what crime is, or how to fight it.
posted by klanawa at 2:00 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Considering there have been two pot busts in the Houston area in the past two weeks -- worth $4M and $2M -- $300,000 is not too much to pay for cheap surveillance.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 2:02 PM on October 31, 2011


Does anyone know where the smoke around the Imperial Oaks area is coming from?
Like · Comment · 5 hours ago via mobile ·

Montgomery County Police Reporter MOST LIKELY PEOPLE BURNING TREE DEBRIS ETC


Jesus Christ, Gomer, stop yelling.
posted by klanawa at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2011


Montgomery County Police Reporter Facebook Page.

Wow, apparently they have a broken caps lock key too.
posted by kmz at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2011


I can't be all that outraged, so long as it's used for what they're already using the choppers for. Especially given that I'm in the planning stages of building my own UAV. Two or three grand, along with a HAM ticket, and it will be able to fly out about 30 miles from the ground station, assuming sufficient battery capacity, of course.

If I understand the relevant regulations, it would even be possible to use one of the autopilot modules and cell data to get essentially unlimited radio range, although real time control would be an issue. It would be more of a "go to this point and circle until you either lose communication, run low on fuel or receive new instructions" situation, than a live stream over the cell phone network. Still handy.

AIUI, the FCC doesn't limit the use of cell phones at altitude at all, and the FAA reg doesn't apply to unlicensed flights (model airplane, UAV, or ultralight), whether manned or unmanned.
posted by wierdo at 2:04 PM on October 31, 2011


Oh, I should mention that I think it's a colossal waste of money, as police helicopters almost invariably also are. I don't think that it has major civil liberties implications, however.
posted by wierdo at 2:05 PM on October 31, 2011


p.s. This tech is defeatable by a single radio antenna. If you know what you're doing.

I suspect (though have not verified) that by this point they're using an OFDM-like system where the signal is spread across several randomly-chosen bands that have low-RSS already on them, and switches frequencies often. It's not particularly new technology at this point. So probably not as easy as you think.
posted by atbash at 2:09 PM on October 31, 2011


If a drone were capable of replacing a police heli, wouldn't it be a good idea? That's a lot of savings in fuel, maintenance, and pilot safety.

That's actually the problem, from a civil liberties perspective.

The best thing about police helicopters is that they're big, noisy, expensive to buy and expensive to operate. These are the only things that really limit their usage.

If a drone costs 1/10th of a helicopter in operating costs, that doesn't mean you get to save 90% of the cost of a heli. It means you end up with 10 times the number of drones.
posted by auto-correct at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


If a drone costs 1/10th of a helicopter in operating costs, that doesn't mean you get to save 90% of the cost of a heli. It means you end up with 10 times the number of drones.

Er, no. If it's 1/10th the price in operating costs, it means you get 10 times the time for the same number of drones.
</nitpick>
posted by atbash at 2:39 PM on October 31, 2011


As if I needed to see further evidence that American "law enforcement" doesn't know what crime is, or how to fight it.

They're just getting stocked-up and prepared for a few years down the road, when they have to turn their shiny toys on Americans.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm mostly concerned about anonymous drones attacking protestors frankly.

There is obviously an enormous problem with police recording disappearing whenever they show criminal misconduct by officers, but that should be solved by automatically archiving all police recordings outside police control, not by reducing the amount recorded. Ideally, all police activity should be recorded except for undercover work.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:42 PM on October 31, 2011


I give it six months before someone remote controls it right into a brick wall. All other issues aside, don't you need some sort of extended specialist training and skills before they had a 300,000 piece of equipment to you? Or will this just be handed to the person with the high x-box score?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2011


UAVs have a much higher crash rate (more than 10x higher) which translates to more risk to civilians. (http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/Predators-Falling-From-The-Sky-Everywhere-9-21-2009.asp)

Anyone wielding the State Monopoly on Violence needs to have skin in the game. Variations on the Milgram experiment have shown time and time and time again that clinical authority + machine interface will lead people to commit atrocities to fellow human beings far quicker and easier than any other set-up.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

"Generally, when the victim's physical immediacy was increased, the participant's compliance decreased. The participant's compliance also decreased when the authority's physical immediacy decreased (Experiments 1–4)"

The UAVs will be weaponized. Sophisticated contractors with sophisticated market research divisions aren't just going to make a huge investment in building weapon slots on these things if they don't intend to fill them. They already know there's a market. Our role is to point out how unpalatable that possibility truly is to voters so the market collapses.
posted by Skwirl at 3:06 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


kmz: "I'm shocked, shocked:
Montgomery County is one of the most heavily Republican counties in Texas, giving 78.1% of its vote to George W. Bush in 2004[3] and giving 75.8% of its vote to John McCain in 2008.[4] The county has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since native Texan Lyndon Johnson won 60.9% of the county's vote in 1964."[5]
So, now, ok, wait, I've gotta get this straight here... Republicans are the ones that don't like government right, because, ya know, from reading these two items in conjunction one might get the funny idea that Republicans kinda like big bad authoritarian government. Just a hunch.
posted by symbioid at 3:15 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Way to control those pesky wetbacks.
posted by Cranberry at 3:16 PM on October 31, 2011


I will contribute to the legal fund of whichever redneck pot farmer shoots that thing out of the sky.
posted by zzazazz at 3:43 PM on October 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


Given the choice between Sheriff Lobo and Skynet, I choose not-Texas.
posted by LordSludge at 3:49 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


How to kill UAVs
posted by jeffburdges at 4:27 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have any advice on how I can be an *even better* citizen?

Fill your facebook with
-Praise for our officers and officials, and that you're glad you supported them. Don't specify who or what.
-Insinuate that you go way back with unnamed people high up.
-Status updates that you work 12 hours a day at work, and spend any remaining time playing farmville and sleeping. And wow, life is good.

OTOH, maybe they'll think you must be high...
posted by -harlequin- at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the Metafiler consensus is that manned spaceflight, for example, is wasteful and expensive and all the work can be carried out by unmanned drones, but unmanned drones are evil and shouldn't be used ahead of manned helicopters and aircraft by police forces, even though similar arguments about cost and capability could apply? The OP makes clear it won't be armed in any way, but we think it should be opposed because it will be armed anyway. As a few people have pointed out, it could be used for all sorts of purposes, including saving the lives of people lost or trapped or following stolen vehicles without dangerous high speed car chases, but screw that lets jam it or cheer as it's shot down from the sky because, fuck the cops, right?
posted by joannemullen at 4:47 PM on October 31, 2011


Yes. Fuck the cops, joanne. And while we're at it, let's sneer at a straw consensus.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, for any of you who may remember when I was begging for your help with Apps for the Army, all I can say is I'll be seeing you real soon, pardners. Real soon.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:57 PM on October 31, 2011


"We're not going to use it to be invading somebody's privacy. It'll be used for situations we have with criminals," Gage said tapping his nose and winking knowingly at his guffawing colleagues.
posted by the noob at 5:04 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


here is how it will go. They got the budget for it approved, acquired it, and watch in 5 years they will liquidate it for cheap so they can keep their aquisition budget rolling and get the new and improved unit. Ahhh city and state budgets at work.
posted by Tech Historian at 5:11 PM on October 31, 2011


I'm excited about the possibilities of anonymous hacking into the future more autonomous versions however. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 5:14 PM on October 31, 2011


So the Metafiler consensus is that manned spaceflight, for example, is wasteful and expensive and all the work can be carried out by unmanned drones

Not really. Personally I'm worried that unmaned drones in space would make it far too tempting and too easy for us to invade the privacy of extra-terrestrial life, and I'm also concerned it could be used to harass the Alpha Centaurians or whatever other alien race we've decided is a threat to gallactic security that week. While I realize there are some advantages to unmanned equipment in terms of cost, I do not know if we can really trust NASA enough to allow them to utilize technology that gives unprecedented access into their ability to access and monitor the lives of innocent space creatures. I realize however that space exploration and policing here on Earth are very different applications of unmanned technology however, so I don't know if these objections would hold any relevance if applied to a police department in Texas.
posted by Hoopo at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Considering there have been two pot busts in the Houston area in the past two weeks -- worth $4M and $2M -- $300,000 is not too much to pay for cheap surveillance.

Every number in this sentence has been massively inflated in one way or another by people who like to say, "See, the system works!"

It's like all those memos I used to see at work justifying the savings that this or that piece of equipment would bring - somehow, every year everything we were buying from our capital budget was saving us more money than we were spending on it, but somehow we never got to the point where we were actually making money on purchases.

There's no doubt in my mind that this thing could be useful for law enforcement, but given all the things that a real helicopter can do that this thing can not do (and I'd start that list with having a pilot with peripheral vision being right there) I can't see them not just going with the real helicopter, so this thing will sit around except when they treat it like a very expensive toy. And pretty soon they'll forget it's an expensive toy and it will be an expensive mesquite tree decoration.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:37 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the story of the $42 million Stealth bomber that was shot down by a guy with an RPG in the Balkans in 1999. This UAV may be state of the art, but one well-chucked bicycle chain, and it's history.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:48 PM on October 31, 2011


Weren't conservative tea-baggers supposedly antithetic to PORKY government handouts?? How does this PORK helicopter still fly in the heart of Texas?

PORK, PORK, here piggy. Gimme some of that PORK!
posted by JJ86 at 5:55 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does this PORK helicopter still fly in the heart of Texas?

Locals feel comfortable that the law targets OWS, not Tea Party?
posted by -harlequin- at 6:09 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


In all honesty, I'd definitely prefer drones (non-weaponized, obviously) to the literally constant flow of LOUD AS FUCK police planes and helicopters up here in the vast suburban wasteland of not-quite-Toronto.

And they can nix the sirens-blaring-for-five-minutes-every-time-someone-drives-regular-speed-in-a-school-zone thing, too. A flash of the lights and a quick bwoop-bwoop would suffice, surely.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:30 PM on October 31, 2011


Anonymous has apparently hacked Vanguard Defense Industries' CEO's email. How many anonymous hack stories have I missed?

Interestingly, there is no wikipedia page for Vanguard Defense Industries, but they're located in Conroe, the county seat for Montgomery County.

In other words, we're probably discussing a homemade model helicopter turned into an expensive police UAV, by a local redneck who's friends in county government help him play at being a defense contractor. I'd even bet the FAA won't interfere because this UAV weights about the same as a model helicopter.

Anonymous could perhaps prevent this company form going national by habitually downing them using jammers.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:41 PM on October 31, 2011


Considering there have been two pot busts in the Houston area in the past two weeks -- worth $4M and $2M -- $300,000 is not too much to pay for cheap surveillance.

So the Houston area governments are selling seized pot for $6M to pay for this? Is that what that sentence implies?
posted by sourwookie at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


In all honesty, I'd definitely prefer drones (non-weaponized, obviously) to the literally constant flow of LOUD AS FUCK police planes and helicopters up here in the vast suburban wasteland of not-quite-Toronto.

Wow, I had no idea. Makes me glad to be in Vancouver, we only really seem to see helicopters on big event nights or when some idiot goes off trail and falls off the mountain.
posted by Hoopo at 7:16 PM on October 31, 2011


Montgomery County is full of Nimby pinheads who burn millions of gallons of gasoline every day so they can work in Houston but sleep in their illusive little island. Screw 'em.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:20 PM on October 31, 2011


Considering there have been two pot busts in the Houston area in the past two weeks

Unfortunately for the police, thermal scans violate the 4th Amendment.

Relevant quote:
…to "explore the details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a 'search' and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like only yesterday we were talking about how drones would never be used against a domestic civilian population.

National security apparatus grow up so fast these days!

Seriously though.. it used to be years before the ramifications of our national security policies were felt in terms of domestic changes, that period seems to be shortening at an increasing rate.

Some people in this thread are saying these drones will not be weaponized, lethal or non-lethal. I'd just to state for the record that I am almost certain they will be. And then those non-lethal weapons will be abused. Like we saw a few weeks ago with Anthony Bologna.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a thousand robotic Anthony Bolognas hovering in the air spraying poison upon the world.
posted by formless at 8:05 PM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


In all honesty, I'd definitely prefer drones (non-weaponized, obviously) to the literally constant flow of LOUD AS FUCK police planes and helicopters up here in the vast suburban wasteland of not-quite-Toronto.

Maybe someone can finally tell me: the 401 has these signs that post the speed limit and say "speed enforced by aircraft". This seems like the emptiest threat I've ever heard of, unless there's more going on than meets the eye.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:09 PM on October 31, 2011


Maybe someone can finally tell me: the 401 has these signs that post the speed limit and say "speed enforced by aircraft". This seems like the emptiest threat I've ever heard of, unless there's more going on than meets the eye.

Around here there are white marks on the side of the road, Airplane times you between two marks if it's faster than it should be they radio a waiting car on the ground to pull you over. Twice I've been pulled over based on aircraft reports, thankfully both times they pulled over the wrong car.
posted by the_artificer at 8:16 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"KEEP BACK 1000 FT" . . . Come again?!?
posted by eggman at 9:18 PM on October 31, 2011


In clear weather, pilots are supposed to see-and-avoid other aircraft. As a private pilot I have some concerns...

Small aircraft pilots have expressed concerns that drones cannot practice the "see and avoid" rule that keeps aircraft from colliding in mid-air. ... Gage said he would take every concern into account as his UAV is deployed.

Ok, good enough for me!
posted by phliar at 4:01 PM on November 1, 2011


phliar wrote: In clear weather, pilots are supposed to see-and-avoid other aircraft. As a private pilot I have some concerns...

Stay at a legal altitude and you shouldn't have a problem, unless you're one of those people who flies police helicopters stupidly low. If you're buzzing a park at less than 500 feet, you should really reconsider your risk tolerance. Clearly, many of these model-sized craft can fly much higher, but best practice is considered to be remaining under 400 feet AGL and staying away from people as much as possible.

And, of course, it's incumbent on the pilot of the unmanned craft to scan the sky for other aircraft just as any other pilot should.
posted by wierdo at 5:35 PM on November 1, 2011


I should clarify that people usually use PTZ cameras on this sort of thing, so they're perfectly capable of excellent situational awareness.
posted by wierdo at 5:37 PM on November 1, 2011


Previously on law enforcement UAVs and FAA regulations.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:08 PM on November 1, 2011


The more abuse of power there is, the more tools they come up with to enable it. Anyone who thinks this won't be weaponized is living in a dream world - just get a dish of ice cream and settle in for an episode of Dancing With The Stars in your happy little world.

My guess would be that this is just the beginning - every law enforcement agency in Texas is going to want one of their own, and Arizona too, probably - gotta get them illegals one way or 'nuther.

What the heck - it'll give the clever hacker-types something to do. I doubt it will take them very long to figure out how to interfere with the electronics and bring this nasty thing down.
posted by aryma at 11:35 PM on November 1, 2011


CIA Drones Kill Large Groups Without Knowing Who They Are

Refueling Gear Makes Navy’s Next Drone Even Deadlier
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


>> p.s. This tech is defeatable by a single radio antenna. If you know what you're doing.

> I suspect (though have not verified) that by this point they're using an OFDM-like system


Much easier to jam GPS.

A fully-manual piloted UAS doesn't need GPS, but the article talks about picking waypoints on a map & having the heli fly to them. That, and lingering in one spot, requires GPS which is a much weaker signal.
posted by morganw at 12:58 PM on November 7, 2011


It's a lot harder to jam GPS when the target of your jamming has a directional antenna pointed at the sky and is above buildings and terrain. What about putting the jammer in an airplane, you say? Sounds like a great way to get caught.
posted by wierdo at 11:03 PM on November 7, 2011


Also, I'd like some independent verification of cell phones and pagers crapping out because of lack of GPS. While it is true that many networks now use GPS as a timing source, I've always seen them implemented with clocks that can keep time well enough to work for about a week with no external timing. Not to mention there's usually a backup network timing source.
posted by wierdo at 11:08 PM on November 7, 2011


Our militarized police forces: The wars on drugs and terror have given police departments a lot of deadly toys and dangerous attitudes
posted by homunculus at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Occupy the Skies! Protesters Could Use Spy Drones
posted by homunculus at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


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