Texas cops hit obstacles (and their own truck)testing UAVs; drones coming anyway

High maintenance costs, frequent errors and crashes slow tests in various Texas police agencies

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Bill Nabors, chief pilot of the 46-pilot Texas DPS Aircraft Section told the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the small drones didn't fly well in Texas-sized winds and that maintenance was far too big a headache to make the UAVs practical for police work, let alone allow DPS to figure out if they were effective at patrolling the Mexican border or other surveillance tests.

A Freedom of Information Act request netted EFF copies of some of the bills for upkeep on the Wasp Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Ground Control stations and a much clearer picture of how far from an everyday resource UAVs really are.

Drones are safer for pilots, dangerous for everyone else

Now safety is turning out to be an issue as well, following an accident in which a drone being tested by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office north of Houston crashed into an armored SWAT vehicle that was being loaded with weapons and ammunition for a training exercise.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office has been testing $300,000 ShadowHawk helicopter drones, which were paid for by grants from the Dept. of Homeland Security.

The drone – larger than the Wasp and capable of being armed with shotgun shells as well as the cameras the test drone carried – lost radio contact with the controller when it was 18 feet off the ground.

Rather than sailing off on its own, the drone is programmed to go into an automatic-shutdown-and-landing routine when it loses contact with its base station.

The drone that crashed wasn't the one purchased by the Sheriff's department; it was a more advanced version brought in specifically for the test by manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries

Instead it crashed into the tanklike SWAT vehicle, though neither vehicle was seriously damaged.

Photo Credit: 

Vanguard Defense Industries

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