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After Close Encounter with CBP Helicopter, Drone Sped Away at 100 MPH, Police Said

A CBP air interdiction agent flies a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Photo: CBP.

By Steve Neavling

A drone that flew dangerously close to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter in Tucson, Ariz., in February sped away at 100 mph in strong headwinds, baffling police who gave pursuit.

Police reports obtained from 12 News describe the mysterious encounter that still has authorities miffed.

It appears the remote-controlled aircraft took off from a site about 5 miles south of the city and then flew across Tucson and north over Marana, the FBI previously said in a news release. 

As a Tucson Police Department helicopter gave chase, the crew was surprised by what they were seeing – or weren’t seeing. They couldn’t see the drone with infrared googles, but they spotted a green light that appeared to be on the underbelly of the drone. 

The drone “maneuvered all over the city” and evaded police, according to the report. 

It was certainly bizarre behavior for a drone. Most commercial drones can’t reach anywhere near 100 mph, and they usually can’t travel for more than five miles. 

“[T]his did not appear to be any off the shelf” drone, the pilot wrote in the report.  

Another helicopter crew member said the drone was “very sophisticated/specialized” and was “able to perform like no other…I have observed.”

After more than an hour, the police helicopter was running out of field and had to stop pursing the drone. 

The FBI is helping with the investigation. 


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