Last week the Blaze told you about the second drone heading to patrol the Texas border in support of federal operations. This time, though, a drone will be in the hands of local law enforcement. The Montgomery Sheriff’s office will have full operational control over its own Shadowhawk drone, marking a first for the Lone Star state.
The price tag on this little aerial beast? $250,000, much of it paid for by the department of Homeland Security. The operating cost of the drone is approximately only 11% of that required for a helicopter crew. In addition, it can be airborne in minutes, and only takes five minutes to completely refuel.
The Shadowhawk drone is built by Vanguard Defense Industries. At 29 pounds and a length of 72 inches, its much smaller than the Predator and Reaper drones associated with military operations abroad, and can only fly for three hours at a time within a 25 mile radius.
But as a law enforcement tool, the Shadowhawk can easily operate in civilian airspace and maneuver in tight urban environments. It is fully controlled by remote operator, which puts no law enforcement personnel at risk. Within its stated parameters, it appears it will be a highly effective crime-fighting tool.
Below is a video overview of the Shadowhawk, courtesy of KRIV-TV:
Right now Texas law enforcement authorities say its primary mission is assisting in “missing person” cases. While the Shadowhawk could certainly find a missing hiker or stranded motorist faster than a squad car, soon its mission set will also include a wide array of policing activities. As stated on the Vanguard website, the Shadowhawk can maintain continuous surveillance of a subject:
“at 700 feet without being heard or seen unlike full sized aircraft. Imagine the advantage provided to an entry team in the following scenarios; high risk warrant, hostage rescue, domestic violence.”
Most interesting of all are the grenade launcher and other projectile modifications for the Shadowhawk. Generally speaking, police drones have not been equipped with guns or launchers. Shadowhawk variants, however, include 40 mm grenade launchers and other lethal small arms payloads. These are set up for military application only, but the Shadowhawk’s grenade launch capability could be used for the deployment of CS gas canisters and other non-lethal ordnance during a crow control or raid scenario.
If the Shadowhawk proves itself during law enforcement missions, it could only be a matter of time before a lethal payload is introduced for drone use on U.S. soil. Police drone operators back in the station could then be making life or death decisions with the click of a button.
Here is a promotional video from Vanguard intended to show the Shadowhawk in action: