Police Drone Crashes Into Police Tank

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Okay, it was another Bearcat, not a tank. But still snicker-worthy.

County officials and the maker of that drone confirmed on Friday that a recent police-only photo mission went terribly wrong.

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.

Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said his company’s 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, according to Buscher, but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle.

It’s the exact scenario that was mentioned as a major concern when the Government Accountability Office studied the growing use of police drones in 2008.

Ever since Houston Police were exposed in November 2007 on a secret test of drones for law enforcement, dozens of police agencies have applied for drones to be used on patrols throughout the country.

Of course, when these things start crashing into homes and businesses, it will be quite a bit less snicker-worthy. Maybe they’ll just blame it on terrorists.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

31 Responses to “Police Drone Crashes Into Police Tank”

  1. #1 |  GaryM | 

    The link isn’t working.

  2. #2 |  CyniCAl | 

    No casualties? Damn, I was hoping for a happy ending.

  3. #3 |  a leap at the wheel | 

    Shades of Robocop.

  4. #4 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    I just thought up a new firework-free way to
    entertain the masses on July 4th.

  5. #5 |  Dante | 

    Government agent: These things are 100% safe, and we never have any accidents”.


    Government agent: “These things are 100% safe, and we never have any accidents”.

    Repeat every day, in every town, city or state across America, for any/every situation, and for any/every question, until there are no more questions because everyone is either dead or in jail.

  6. #6 |  Maria | 

    I’m wondering, why did it lose contact? Did someone turn on a microwave? A cell phone go off? ;) I’d hope these things would be at least shielded from most interference? No backup control stations?

    I mean if they are going to use their ill gotten budgets in high tech toys I would hope they would at least use top shelf equipment. I want my rights violated in sleek, high end, dystopian style.

  7. #7 |  picachu | 

    I have a dream. I dream that someday one arrogant prideful local police force is going to declare war on another arrogant prideful local police force.

    That would be so awesome!

  8. #8 |  picachu | 

    Oh…and fuck vanguard defense industries. May they burn in hell with Taser International.

  9. #9 |  Thom | 

    I’m having a hard time figuring out who they’re going to charge with a crime over this. Usually they would charge whoever was the target of the SWAT raid.

  10. #10 |  David | 

    Thom: There were press in attendance, right? Taking pictures and video? Clearly another reason to ban the use of recording equipment around cops. Confiscate it all and throw the saboteurs in jail.

  11. #11 |  Maria | 

    Come to think of it, one of the hinted at operational procedures is bugging the crap out of me.

    Shouldn’t a drone go into a holding pattern if it loses connection with its control station?

    Wouldn’t that be a safer and more logical first step fail safe instead of the “Can’t phone home?! Make a blind beeline back and power down.” Or did it do a holding pattern for a while till the power was low and all that was left was this uncontrolled “kamikaze run”?

    I’m really curious as to how these things are going to be operating over our heads. I think we deserve to know if we are going to be dodging minor “blade strikes”.

  12. #12 |  The Other Dan | 

    Here is a link to detailed 2005 MIT study on unmanned flight in the US airspace system. A couple of interesting notes; the accident rate trends graph (pg 21) and the portions of the study that show the highest risk for damage, injury and/or fatalities caused by a UAV crash is in urban areas.


  13. #13 |  Anthony | 

    Speaking from my limited experience with drones in the Army. In a combat situation you want the drone to go back to base to avoid it falling into the enemy’s hands. I’m not saying that it is the safest thing for them to do, just that it is the default programming. I think that this is another good example of why military equipment shouldn’t be used for policing.

  14. #14 |  Mike T | 

    Claiming this as America’s first suicide bombing in 3… 2… 1…

  15. #15 |  Brandon | 

    Obviously this means that they need redundancy in drones and tanks. Everybody get out your checkbooks and bend over.

  16. #16 |  Maria | 

    @13 Thank you, that makes sense.

    And now that you mentioned it, that behavior is aptly illustrative. I guess the application of military style ‘Us / The Enemy’ thought patterns and processes are another example of the militarization of policing. Now I’m even more curious though. As stated in the above linked documentation, the oil and forestry industries also use them. I wonder if their default “lost link” programming is a military process as well.

  17. #17 |  Maria | 

    *military derived process.

  18. #18 |  Brad Warbiany | 

    “Of course, when these things start crashing into homes and businesses, it will be quite a bit less snicker-worthy.”

    Don’t worry, the police will definitely have heard it knock & announce first.

  19. #19 |  Anthony | 


    I doubt oil and forestry companies conduct 18 foot fly overs to show off how manly they are. I never seen them fly that low in the Army. Granted, we didn’t do too many show off photo ops.

  20. #20 |  jmcross | 

    I note that DHS is the funding source for this fiasco. I swear, the day the feds go bankrupt will be a great day for us. Smart folks will be dancing in the streets.

  21. #21 |  Pugnacious | 

    @ Anthony

    Watching those 757s maneuver on 9/11 with that last tight hi-G turn into the twin towers, my first thought was ground cockpit control, that no amateur pilot could navigate across the NYC skyline and bullseye those towers, having acquired such acrobatic flight skills from watching cockpit videos.

    I think that Khaddafi was right:Al Qaeda is in New York.


  22. #22 |  Pugnacious | 

    Drones are flying out of Ethiopia to Uganda in the hunt for Joseph Kony, Africom’s current boyeman, now that the uppity Charles Taylor is at the Hague.

    This time the Special Ops teams have “Nobel Peace Prize laureate” Obama’s order to kill Kony and his two-hundred LRA “followers.”


  23. #23 |  Pugnacious | 

    With Africom’s drones over Uganda and Rwanda, Dian Fossey must be rolling in her grave.

    Pity the poor folks and Dian’s Silver-back gorillas.


  24. #24 |  Whim | 

    When the inevitable first drone crashes into a civilian house, business or body, the law enforcement community and their allies in the Prosecuting Attorney offices will simply state that obvious:

    The damage is Collateral Damage in the WAR ON DRUGS.

  25. #25 |  Dan Danknick | 

    This is classic NOOB stuff. And I’m qualified to opine since I’ve been selling fail safe radio linked robotic controls since 1999.

    The MIT clowns at iRobot were humbled by a replay attack prior to 2006 – I suppose that in their “nobody is smarter than us” land, there isn’t possibly another human on the planet that understands control protocols. Yeah, um, wrong.

    At first I believed Michael Buscher should be ashamed for fielding such a haphazard piece of crap to local LEO but in the end I am pleased. Forget my tax dollars “at work against terrorism” or some such nonsense: at least I can knock his junior high experiment out of the sky without much effort.

    Like a sneeze.


  26. #26 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Alright Dan, you’ve piqued my interest. Share.

  27. #27 |  Larry Ruane | 

    “Of course, when these things start crashing into homes and businesses, it will be quite a bit less snicker-worthy.” Even this case is not snicker-worthy, because who gets to pay for the damage? The tax-victims, of course.

  28. #28 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    As a private pilot, I find the possibility that my plane might collide with one of these drones to be beyond scary…mark my words, this will eventually happen, the outcome will not be good, and all hell will break loose. Cynically, if a small private plane and its occupants is totalled, nothing will change. However, if a 787 gets totalled on final to a major airport, some common sense might break out…although given the lack of sense after 9/11, I doubt that even this will be true.

  29. #29 |  Bad Medicine | 

    Snicker-worthy… as long as it’s not a King-size Snickers. Let’s not get the First Lady involved…

  30. #30 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @OP: Maybe they’ll just blame it on terrorists.

    Maybe they already have for that matter.

    Drone could have been used to bring down Flight 93.

    Or Flight 93 might have been put down from the ground, which would make Flight 93 a “drone” at least insofar as the remote killswitch mode of operation is concerned.

    They waited an awfully long time to deny that the military brought down F93. How could they not have KNOWN that right away? Maybe Rummy got it right.

    Okay, I’ll be quiet now. Mr. Balko and I had been getting along so well lately and I think I am ruining the progress.

    Maybe Six Sigma will come back.

  31. #31 |  picachu | 

    Graham Shevlin “…mark my words, this will eventually happen, the outcome will not be good, and all hell will break loose.”

    Nah. Cops kill innocent people all the time and all hell doesn’t break loose. As a nation we’re waaaaay beyond any of that sort of naivete. We’re pretty much at the point that people in Poland or Russia were during the cold war. Just keep a low profile and hope it isn’t you or your family on the receiving end from the government thugs.