Mystery military drone over Davis-Monthan AFB chased by two helicopters

sublight is back

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jeffb

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Yeah was definitely a drone,” the TPD helicopter crew member replies. “I just couldn’t tell you - I couldn’t give you its dimensions as it was moving... too sketchy for us to... I assure you it was not a quadcopter, and it was the most advanced drone we’ve dealt with over the last decade here. Its abilities were pretty incredible, um, I just - I can’t tell you exactly its size.”

The Tucson tower employee then asks if it could have been a larger UAV like an MQ-1 Predator. “It’s not aircraft-sized,” the TPD helicopter crew member replied. “From what I can tell just from its position light, you know, I would have to imagine it was larger than a quadcopter, and I guarantee you it was nothing like a quadcopter from how long it was up - it
has to be satellite-driven because there’s no line-of-sight, there’s no cell phone coverage that could have dealt with that, so it has to be satellite-driven, which is pretty freakin’ sophisticated.” The helicopter crew member then laments not being able to apprehend the craft, saying he really wanted to see what type of technology was aboard the drone.

DRONE CIRCLED BETWEEN BOTH HELOS AND CLIMBED UP TO AND ABOVE AN ESTIMATED 12000 FEET AND TRAVELED 10 MILES NORTH/NORTHEAST... PURSUED FOR OVER 60 MINUTES UNTIL CONTACT LOST IN VICINITY OF MARANA AIRPORT.

That's pretty impressive performance for a drone. Doesn't really sound like someone's garage 'project', does it.
 

Dragon029

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That's pretty impressive performance for a drone. Doesn't really sound like someone's garage 'project', does it.
In a way it does - no consumer drones have that kind of performance, so either it's a hobby (or university) drone, or it's something industrial or military.

As for communications, maybe it was satellite controlled (it's not super hard to do, just a tad expensive), or maybe there was just a long-range VHF / UHF radio being used and some autonomous behaviours. So long as you have GPS (even intermittently), open source software suites like ArduPilot can handle autonomous missions (with manual control available whenever an RC link is available). I'm also not sure why they claim there was no way it could be using a cellular connection; I'm assuming there's just bad service in the area they're talking about, but at elevated altitudes that might not be the case (cell towers are designed to radiate towards the ground and horizon, but reflected signals, side lobes, etc allow for some reception at altitude).
 

Flyaway

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I imagine a drone of that size could be smuggled into a country in parts through things like diplomatic luggage.
 

sublight is back

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That's pretty impressive performance for a drone. Doesn't really sound like someone's garage 'project', does it.
In a way it does - no consumer drones have that kind of performance, so either it's a hobby (or university) drone, or it's something industrial or military.

As for communications, maybe it was satellite controlled (it's not super hard to do, just a tad expensive), or maybe there was just a long-range VHF / UHF radio being used and some autonomous behaviours. So long as you have GPS (even intermittently), open source software suites like ArduPilot can handle autonomous missions (with manual control available whenever an RC link is available). I'm also not sure why they claim there was no way it could be using a cellular connection; I'm assuming there's just bad service in the area they're talking about, but at elevated altitudes that might not be the case (cell towers are designed to radiate towards the ground and horizon, but reflected signals, side lobes, etc allow for some reception at altitude).
Nope, nope, and nope.

deftly maneuvered around both helicopters with bizarre agility
There is too much latency for a remote pilot to perform agile maneuvers over a cellular or satellite connection. There has to be a command and control aircraft nearby.
 

Silencer1

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That's pretty impressive performance for a drone. Doesn't really sound like someone's garage 'project', does it.

As AMARG located in the same area, the source of the required details and systems could be closer, then expected. Or, AI has been already born inside this "aircraft cemetry" multiple examples - and make his first steps to SkyNet?
 

martinbayer

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I imagine a drone of that size could be smuggled into a country in parts through things like diplomatic luggage.
Or you just fly it in from a ship or across the border, or simply ship it in a container. I wonder if there might be some nexus with industrial strength narco drones.
 

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There is too much latency for a remote pilot to perform agile maneuvers over a cellular or satellite connection. There has to be a command and control aircraft nearby.
Or it could be automated to run pre-set evasion maneuvers.
On dyamically moving objects without tracking radar? Uh huh.....
 

Flyaway

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I imagine a drone of that size could be smuggled into a country in parts through things like diplomatic luggage.
Or you just fly it in from a ship or across the border, or simply ship it in a container. I wonder if there might be some nexus with industrial strength narco drones.
You could probably put a drone control centre in a container.
 

martinbayer

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I imagine a drone of that size could be smuggled into a country in parts through things like diplomatic luggage.
Or you just fly it in from a ship or across the border, or simply ship it in a container. I wonder if there might be some nexus with industrial strength narco drones.
You could probably put a drone control centre in a container.
Absolutely.
 

Dynoman

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The helicopter track was primarily on a NE-SW line once it began to chase the UAS in a number of turns. If the UAS was piloted from the area it was likely from the middle of the track to maintain a visual on the UAS. The middle corresponds to an area around the Morris K. Udall Park and Rec Center. The operator could have driven the UAS into the clouds to escape and then placed in a GPS homing mode to recover the UAS.
I think a university student or a drone enthusiast with a high speed drone is more likely the culprit. The ability to tinker with drone technology and their disregard for air space and Part 107 reg.'s sounds more like a delinquent testing out their design than a spying drone targeting a military base.
 

quellish

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No one else finds it interesting that it disappeared near Marana?
 

CiTrus90

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No one else finds it interesting that it disappeared near Marana?

tumblr_ouf66aEPyC1tlgqkgo6_540.gifv
 

jeffb

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The bigger deal for me is that it was detected hovering in restricted airspace, so it had already traveled there from somewhere else. It took off at high speed (like really high speed for a drone), outperforming the helicopters sent in pursuit, and then did that for A HOUR before contact was lost.

Speed, high performance and duration like that needs power, lots of it.

Some of those big RC model jet turbines can produce a lot of power, but the fuel consumption rates are pretty horrendous, probably precluding operation for more than about 20 mins.
 

In_A_Dream

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The bigger deal for me is that it was detected hovering in restricted airspace, so it had already traveled there from somewhere else. It took off at high speed (like really high speed for a drone), outperforming the helicopters sent in pursuit, and then did that for A HOUR before contact was lost.

Speed, high performance and duration like that needs power, lots of it.

Some of those big RC model jet turbines can produce a lot of power, but the fuel consumption rates are pretty horrendous, probably precluding operation for more than about 20 mins.
If only they could somehow jam it since it's a persistent phenomenon in the area, then see how it reacts to the jamming. Being near a major city, may not be a good idea.
 

jeffb

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The bigger deal for me is that it was detected hovering in restricted airspace, so it had already traveled there from somewhere else. It took off at high speed (like really high speed for a drone), outperforming the helicopters sent in pursuit, and then did that for A HOUR before contact was lost.

Speed, high performance and duration like that needs power, lots of it.

Some of those big RC model jet turbines can produce a lot of power, but the fuel consumption rates are pretty horrendous, probably precluding operation for more than about 20 mins.
If only they could somehow jam it since it's a persistent phenomenon in the area, then see how it reacts to the jamming. Being near a major city, may not be a good idea.

This. I thought a lot of US airports already jam the *standard* drone control frequencies and I'd be surprised if the US military doesn't as well. If they do, that suggests a non-standard control system as well. Less and less likely it's a garage project or even a university project, most of those would apply tech that's already been debugged and is relatively cheap to include, there's no point in reinventing the wheel, unless you need to.
 

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Why would some super secret spy drone have a position light sufficient for police helicopters to chase it for an hour?
 

Flyaway

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The bigger deal for me is that it was detected hovering in restricted airspace, so it had already traveled there from somewhere else. It took off at high speed (like really high speed for a drone), outperforming the helicopters sent in pursuit, and then did that for A HOUR before contact was lost.

Speed, high performance and duration like that needs power, lots of it.

Some of those big RC model jet turbines can produce a lot of power, but the fuel consumption rates are pretty horrendous, probably precluding operation for more than about 20 mins.
If only they could somehow jam it since it's a persistent phenomenon in the area, then see how it reacts to the jamming. Being near a major city, may not be a good idea.
Just to see if it has anti-jamming capability, yes that would be something of a giveaway.
 

bring_it_on

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This is pretty much what the contract modification to the Raytheon HELWS gets them. It's more suitable for fixed installations or mounting on commercial vehicles.

 

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Jerry_B

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Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.
 

quellish

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Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.
Yup. This is why I think the helicopters may have been observing a night HAHO drop rather than a drone.
 

Kat Tsun

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Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.

Most UFO reports tend to be celestial objects anyway. Probably because people are bad at judging distance when looking up at the sky.
 

sublight is back

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Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.
Yup. This is why I think the helicopters may have been observing a night HAHO drop rather than a drone.
Uhhhh..... What?
A sheriffs dept helicopter, and a DHS helicopter chase this drone for 40 miles, the choppers have thermal AND NVG, and you think it was a HAHO exercise? Hahahahahahahahaha.
 

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Why would some super secret spy drone have a position light sufficient for police helicopters to chase it for an hour?
Why does the F-117 have nav lights on it?
But it doesn't fly around harr
Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.
Yup. This is why I think the helicopters may have been observing a night HAHO drop rather than a drone.
Kinda like chasing Venus?
 

drejr

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Why would some super secret spy drone have a position light sufficient for police helicopters to chase it for an hour?
Why does the F-117 have nav lights on it?

So it can be seen at night. If I was making a super drone to spy on an air force base (or whatever) in the middle of Tuscon the first thing I'd do is give it a light switch so it's not conspicuous on near moonless nights.

Doesn't make much sense to leave a position light on unless it's necessary to see it from the ground.

Bear in mind that these apparent unusual 'powers' of the drone don't really differ all that much of the things claimed of UFOs since 1947. The issue really is that those observing events as the happen from a limited perspective start to imagine all sorts of things and thus act as they see fit. How anchored any of that is in reality is open to question. So it seems, similar to UFO reports, the percipients convince themselves within a given premise as they observe something partially, and then their minds fill in the gaps.
Yup. This is why I think the helicopters may have been observing a night HAHO drop rather than a drone.
Uhhhh..... What?
A sheriffs dept helicopter, and a DHS helicopter chase this drone for 40 miles, the choppers have thermal AND NVG, and you think it was a HAHO exercise? Hahahahahahahahaha.

All they saw was a light regardless of thermal (which couldn't track the drone) and NVG.

Did they check for space potatoes in Marana?
 
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sublight is back

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And then surprise, there is this baby. Engineered and built right there in Tucson.

 
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