This week saw a very sudden uptick in concern by several American citizens and groups over the notion that the US Government is using drone aircraft over US soil. This was most notably seen in a YouTube video where a military-grade, apparently Predator-class drone was spotted and taped over Elgin, IL just outside of Chicago where a NATO summit is being held. Additional sightings near Thurmont, MD were reported as well ahead of the G8 gathering being held at Camp David.
I’ve written about the use of drone surveillance aircraft over American soil and private citizens already but that wasn’t a government-operated bird and it certainly wasn’t one that could be armed with Hellfire missiles.There’s some significant questions about the use of military drones over American cities and towns and I’m not currently convinced either way on the matter, but this video out of Illinois has generated both peaked interest and no small amount of concern. One of the questions being asked is: Is this for real? The Hot Air link I linked to first in this post asks that very question and calls upon their readership with specific video-processing skills or military experience to assist in making the determination. I have neither of those skillsets, but I’ve got years of experience as an aviation buff in observing aircraft in flight. This is a fake. Here’s the video, dear readers. Let’s start there.
OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way: This is absolutely a Predator drone. There is no manned or passenger-carrying aircraft with this kind of profile. Note the tail assembly: the “butterfly” stabilizer extends downward from the fuselage. The forward part of the fuselage bulges to a diameter of almost twice the size of the body tube. Again, this isn’t seen in any other type of aircraft in common usage today. The video clearly shows the video/sensor dome just under the “chin” of the aircraft and there are 2 hardpoint mounting pylons under the wings, right where they are positioned on the Predator. This is a Predator drone.
There has already been talk about the flight path of the drone through this shot, that’s it just too straight and level. That may be, but that’s not the dead giveaway. It’s the angle of the flight. Note the wings: the near wingtip is significantly behind the far wingtip. You can’t get this angle of observation unless you’re basically in front of the aircraft. Now, assuming the aircraft is flying straight and level – and it appears to be doing just that in the video – then as the aircraft flies along it will begin to pass your point of observation. The angle of the wings relative to you will begin to approach a “straight up-and-down” attitude. The near wing will begin to appear as if it were the hands of a clock approaching 12 and the far wing will move to the 6. As the plane passes you, the near wing will appear to move forward of the far wing. That’s not happening in this shot. And at the range this aircraft appears to be flying, it would most certainly have happened in the span of time shown.
Alternatively, if you start with the observation angle shown in the video and you maintain that angle relative to the aircraft, then that means the plane is flying toward you. As it flies, it will approach you and it’ll appear to get bigger. That’s not happening in this video, either, and that’s what makes the video appear to be “off” even if people can’t quantify why that is.
Bottom line: The issue of whether drones should be used over American cities remains an open conversation but the question of whether one overflew an Elgin, IL ball field is not. This one’s a fake.