Tucson police-evading super-drone ‘quadcopter-like’ with ‘propellers reflecting light’

drone Tucson police

The mystery seems to thicken even as more details arise. Newly unearthed eye-witness accounts of the super-drone that outran and outmaneuvered pursuing police aircraft over Tucson last February establish it as “quadcopter like” replete with “propellers.” Yet the who, why, and especially how behind the unbelievable airborne performance remain entirely unknown.

Once again, the latest revelations come from The Drive’s War Zone reporter Brett Tingley, who most recently used a Freedom of Information request to obtain new documentation related to the incident. It occurred on February 9, when a small uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) nearly collided with a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) helicopter above Tucson just after 10 p.m. As recounted herehere, and here, a winding 70-mile chase ensued for over an hour at speeds over 100 mph and altitudes of up to 14,000 feet – all in vain, as it turned out. Despite being joined by a Tucson Police (TPD) helicopter, the pursuers could neither catch nor get a hard look at the mega-fast and incredibly agile craft, which taunted the pilots chasing it before disappearing into a cloud bank.

Previously obtained audio files between pilots and air traffic controllers contained real-time descriptions of the “pretty freakin’ sophisticated… most advanced drone we’ve dealt with,” as it kept “cutting back across right over the top of us, doing a half orbit, trying to prevent us from following him.” As it did so, the UAV repeatedly violated the prohibited air spaces of Tucson’s airport and nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (referred to as KDMA below). 

Now, Tingley offers additional information from internal CBP email that describes the vehicle as “quadcopter like,” with “propellers reflecting the city light” as it went into hover GPS mode above the base.

Might the super-drone that ditched police during its astonishing Tucson flight be military in origin?

Given the unreal speed, maneuverability, and power supply of the vehicle (which outlasted the gas reserves of both chasing helicopters), the additional description and identification of it as a drone is an asset in theorizing what was behind it.

An official Federal Bureau of Investigations inquiry into the matter has offered no new public information on it. Coming as it did in the wake of declassified official US military reports on unsolved unidentified flying object sightings, the spectacular incident has generated no little conjecture that the super-drone was alien in origin. 

Now, however, it’s looking more likely the craft’s “pretty freakin’ sophisticated” abilities may well have been home grown. Though admittedly speculating on known facts, it seems reasonable to suspect the drone’s attraction for the prohibited air space of KDMA wasn’t just a piloting quirk.

“Once the sUAS reached KDMA it started a loiter pattern on the north side of the base… observed by the pilot (as what) appeared to be a GPS hover hold,” the CBP email reads. “The pilot maneuvered the Astar helicopter 50-75ft below the sUAS and was able to observe propellers reflecting the city light off of them. The pilot noted the sUAS to be a quadcopter like shape and approximately 3-5ft wide with a single green blinking green LED light on the bottom.”

The craft’s light is an important detail, given the repeated failures of crew in both chasing police helicopters to get a better look at the super-drone by using night vision googles (NVG) at various stages of its flight over Tucson. Why they saw nothing during those attempts is apparently explained in the email.

“The green LED light was the at [sic] a nanometer wavelength that was filtered out by the crew’s NVGs, so an unaided visual track was required,” it noted.

To be sure, a Hall of Fame UAV and tech geek capable of constructing a world champ super-drone like the one that avoided police throughout its Tucson flight would also presumably have the abilities to trick it out with lights in a way that thwarted night vision scrutiny as well. But how many killer enthusiasts have the know-how and hardware to put that kind of vehicle together and aren’t doing so, for big money, with a private company – or a branch of the military? 

Perhaps, just maybe, it was more than chance that led the quadcopter to crisscross KDMA air space as if it were home-safe-home.


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