Last Friday, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office unveiled their latest high-tech law enforcement tool, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The device, created by Vanguard Defense Industries, looks like a scaled down helicopter decorated with the familiar MCSO paint, symbols and striping and is known as a “Shadow Hawk.”
MCSO Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel said the new drone helicopter would “enhance agencies’ ability to provide more effective, efficient and better public safety for the citizens of Montgomery County.” Vanguard Defense Industries CEO Mike Buscher approached Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage and McDaniel about three years ago with the idea of an unmanned aerial vehicle for public safety and law enforcement, McDaniel said. The Sheriff’s Office has worked closely with the company on that concept since then, and thanks to grant funds from the Department of Homeland Security, the MCSO now has the Shadow Hawk.
McDaniel said the Shadow Hawk is designed to “provide more sets of eyes, increasing capabilities for public safety in dealing with critical incidents.”
“We have pushed the envelope further to deal with a myriad of public safety incidents,” he said.
The drone has not only remote camera capabilities, but also night vision and heat sensing, which would be useful not only in law enforcement situations, but in fire incidents such as hazardous material spills when a human could be harmed by getting near enough to assess the situation, McDaniel said.
Another fairly frequent occurrence mentioned at the drone’s unveiling was the issue of missing persons. Searches into wooded areas that are usually performed on horseback or ATV can be performed much faster with a flyover by the Shadow Hawk.
Sheriff Gage said he was excited to have the Shadow Hawk and that the equipment could have been used to assist departments battling the recent tri-county wildfire.
Congressman Kevin Brady also attended the unveiling and commended Sheriff Gage for his “aggressive enforcement of public safety in Montgomery County,” and said the Shadow Hawk was more evidence of that. The Congressman further pointed out that Montgomery County is one of the 25 fastest growing in the United States and is mostly unincorporated, giving Sheriff Gage responsibility for a huge area.
Brady said he saw a demonstration of the Shadow Hawk by Vanguard months ago and was impressed with its flexibility and cost effectiveness. According to McDaniel, the device costs about $40 per hour to operate, versus $500 per hour for a manned helicopter.
A number of deputies are already in training to operate the Shadow Hawk, but the first tactical flight crew will be Sgt. Melvin Franklin, a detective with prior pilot experience and Lt. Damon Hall, who is over the MCSO Crime Lab.
The first official deployment is expected within a month, according to McDaniel.
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