Forget the idea that weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are only for military operations in wars fought in far off lands. Soon they’ll begin setting their sights on criminals within our borders. And they’ll be packing heat, not the long-range missiles of the X-47B, but with up close and personal stun guns, 12-gauge shotguns and, believe it or not, grenade launchers.
The ShadowHawk is the seven-foot, 50-lb copter that is the toy-sized dealer of destruction from Texas-based Vanguard Defense Industries. The copter is the result of three years of development. If being tased from above sounds frightening to you, I suggest you cease all criminal activities now (simply staying indoors is an option). There’s a good chance ShadowHawk’s spine tingling buzz could be heard approaching a city near you. As a sign of new law enforcement tactics to come, the Sheriff’s Office of Montgomery County, Texas was recently awarded a grant by the Department of Homeland Security for a squadron of ShadowHawks. Montgomery County’s Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel is psyched. “We are very excited about the funding and looking forward to placing the equipment into the field. Both my narcotics and SWAT units have been looking at numerous ways to deploy it and I absolutely believe it will become a critical component on all SWAT callouts and narcotics raids and emergency management operations.”
The Department of Homeland Security grant is just the latest indication that the US is taking the military’s lead – with over 7,000 drones in the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan – and using drones as a key tactical tool. In 2009 a surveillance drone called the Wasp was used during a SWAT raid in Austin, Texas. The Wasp climbed to 400 feet and beamed realtime video of a house in which an armed drug dealer was hiding. After the team had confirmed that there were no unforeseen dangers lurking in the backyard, they stormed the house and arrested the suspect. Drones are also helping the US to secure its borders against illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Just a few months ago the Obama administration began sending drones to Mexico to gather intelligence and help in the country’s war on drugs.