There may be a few things more fun than running down genuine bad guys –if so, running them down with a remote control helicopter and shooting them with 12-gauge flexible baton or 40mm HEDP has to be one of them.
Vanguard Defense has deployed the Shadowhawk UAV after 3 years of development to excellent reviews. It’s currently looking for pirates off the Horn of Africa and providing poor-man’s CAS to a few LE agencies at home. Variants have the option of turbine or piston engine, basic CCD TV optics, FLIR capability, thermal cameras, “fully autonomous avionics” package, laser pointers, illuminators and range finders and—wait for it—37mm or 40mm grenade launchers. There’s also an insert for 12 gauge shotgun rounds with a laser designator. Other options are limited to military users (precision munitions?).
Shadowhawk is 7 feet long and weighs 49 lbs with a max speed of 70mph. The turbine model can stay up for 1 hour, the piston model 2 ½. It can launch in 25 knot winds, sustain flight through gusts of 45 knots and keep the camera stable at up to 25 knots (though it records video in all conditions).
Vanguard hopes for success in the LE market (imagine what it could do for police surveillance and tactical team deployments). It
requires little space or infrastructure: a vessel or can run it from inside a 20’ x 20’ cargo container on deck.
The sides fold up to a launch pad and operators sit in the box itself with all the maintenance equipment, monitoring in real time.
Of course it won’t be as simple an operation as when USBP pushes Predators
along the border. For one thing the skies are more crowded in urban areas. For another anything the flies must to deal with the FAA. You can imagine how they (and TSA?) would be about UAVs in CONUS airspace (especially UAVs that carry too much liquid or gel).
You won’t be taking SWAT guys on a skid ride, but you will follow vehicles discreetly, observe suspect locations indirectly and run aerial patrols where a traditional police helo could never go. It’s ability to deploy less lethal munitions or engage with deadly force is certainly an added advantage (at least until the officer piloting it remotely is sued for police brutality which WILL happen no matter how righteous the shoot).
There’s operational footage available from the corporate sector showing the Shadowhawk in action. We’re looking forward to seeing video taken during a fugitive manhunt…especially if someone takes a 37mm kinetic baton.