The Montgomery County, Texas sheriff’s office is weeks away from launching an unmanned military-style drone. The ShadowHawk helicopter is six-feet long, weighs fifty pounds and fits in the back of an SUV (video below).
Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said: “We can put it over a fire, put it over ahazmat spill, put it over a house with a suspect barricaded inside and literally give the incident commander the ability to look at the entire scene with a bird’s eye view."
Sheriff’s deputies will fly the ShadowHawk with a laptop computer and a remote control similar to that used for video games.
It’s equipped with an infrared camera that can read a license plate from an elevation of twelve hundred feet. The helicopter cost upwards of $300,000 and was purchased with a grant from the federal government.
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Vanguard Defense Industries, which built the helicopter, has also supplied drones to US forces over seas.
But critics argue the drone-like vehicle isn’t safe and may violate privacy.
“I gotta tell you, it sort of looks like boys and their toys, ” said Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “We’re giving up our privacy, we’re letting the government have way too much power. The Constitution spells out very clearly that we have a right to privacy."
“This sheriff’s office has better things to do with its time then spy on people, ” McDaniel argued. "That’s not our mission. The only way that it’s going to be an invasion of their privacy is if they are committing some type of a criminal act where we might utilize this to catch them.”