By Sam Biddle | Gizmodo | Mar. 5, 2012
The Montgomery County (Texas) Sheriff's Office had a big day planned. After becoming the first department in the country with its own aerial drone ($300,000!), they were ready for a nice photo op. And then the drone crashed into a SWAT team.
The Examiner reports a painfully contrived police action-athon:
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.
"Lots of firepower" and a "Bearcat" sure sounds like a good photo op. OK, time to launch the $300,000 drone. Here we go. Launch the drone:
"[The] 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...but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team's armored vehicle."
Not only did the drone fail, and not only did it crash, it literally crashed into the police. It's no wonder we're not able to find a video of this spectacular publicity failure. Luckily, the SWAT boys were safe in their Bearcat.
This would be a fine one-off blooper story if it weren't for some upsetting implications. This is exactly why we have reason to raise multiple eyebrows at Congress, which wants to allow hundreds of similar drones to fly over US airspace. These drones are still a relatively young technology, relatively unproven, and relatively crash-prone. The odds of being hit by one are low, of course, but should a Texas-style UAV plummet ever happen in, say, a dense urban area, nobody would be laughing. Not all of us are driving around in Bearcats. [Examiner]