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Fly By Night

» NY Times: Drones Set Sights on U.S. Skies

There's nothing drones can't do ...

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in Texas bought its 50-pound drone in October from Vanguard Defense Industries, a company founded by Michael Buscher, who built drones for the army, and then sold them to an oil company whose ships were threatened by pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The company custom-built the drone, which takes pictures by day and senses heat sources at night. It cost $300,000, a fraction of the cost of a helicopter.

Mr. McDaniel said his SWAT team could use it for reconnaissance, or to manage road traffic after a big accident. He said he regretted that he didn’t have it a few months ago, to search for a missing person in a densely wooded area.

Mr. Buscher, meanwhile, said he was negotiating with several police agencies. “There is tremendous potential,” he said. “We see agencies dipping their toes.”

The possibilities for drones appear limitless. Last year, Cy Brown of Bunkie, La., began hunting feral pigs at night by outfitting a model airplane with a heat-sensing camera that soared around his brother’s rice farm, feeding live aerial images of the pigs to Mr. Brown on the ground. Mr. Brown relayed the pigs’ locations by radio to a friend with a shotgun.

He calls his plane the Dehogaflier, and says it saves him time wandering in the muck looking for skittish pigs. “Now you can know in 15 minutes if it’s worth going out,” said Mr. Brown, an electrical engineer.

The bulk of the story is about Daniel Gárate, who shoots video for real estate developers with his $5,000 drone. I've already lost some free time scouring the internet for video quality of a number of these kind of drones. The Vanguard drones owned by the Montgomery Co. Sheriff's office definitely seem to be top-notch. But they also run north of $50,000. So I'm real curious about the rig used by Gárate since its much cheaper. Who knows ... at that price, using it for Texas' budding Pork Chopper industry might be worthwhile after all.

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