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This drone helped a SWAT team defuse an armed standoff

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Impossible Aerospace says the flying machine helped spot tear gas

Image: Impossible Aerospace

Last year, Impossible Aerospace built a drone that’s literally filled with batteries, so it can fly for up to two hours on a charge. Now, the company says a 90-minute version of its US-1 quadcopter has proven its worth to a SWAT team in Campbell, California.

On February 8th, a Denny’s restaurant in Campbell was the site of a nearly 12-hour armed standoff, where a man started his 5AM day with a cup of coffee, but later pulled a gun on a Denny’s employee, according to an earlier report from the San Jose Mercury News. Apparently, the Silicon Valley cops had plenty of toys to help with the situation — police reportedly sent a bomb-sniffing robot inside the building to take pictures of the suspect, as well as using an “audible diversionary device.”

But it was the Impossible Aerospace drone that got an enviable vantage point above the building, where it flew for 45 minutes, using its thermal sensors and standard cameras to monitor the building’s perimeter and assist in the actual arrest.

The company says that though the SWAT team used tear gas canisters to flush the suspect out, the drone’s live video feed let law enforcement see that the gas was leaking out of a kitchen vent rather than getting him to leave. So they added more tear gas, and that apparently did the trick.

According to the Mercury News report, the tear gas is believed to have been what caused the suspect to finally leave the building after nearly 12 hours, and peacefully surrender to police.

“At this recent event involving a barricaded subject with a gun, Impossible Aerospace provided a piece of intelligence that our agency previously has never had access to,” reads part of a statement from Campbell police captain Gary Berg. “The use of the US-1 drone helped us optimize the safety of our officers and the community while providing valuable information to the command post through the live video feed.”

I used to bike past that Denny’s on my way to the local library. It’s surreal for me to imagine a drone flying above it, helping to sniff out a suspect.

But it’s only one of the many instances we’ve heard of law enforcement — and for that matter, criminals — using these devices.