Video: Armed MQ-1 Predator drone quietly flying at low altitude over Elgin, Illinois

May 16 2012 - 26 Comments

Filmed in Elgin, Illinois about 40 miles from Chicago, the following video (uploaded to Youtube on May 13) shows what seems to be an MQ-1 Predator drone. Armed with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.

Noteworthy the drone is flying quite low (maybe to remain in visual contact with the ground below the clouds).

Even if someone believes the video is not genuine, the robot could be involved in a surveillance mission in anticipation of NATO meeting that will be held in Chicago on May 20 – 21.

Although not even comparable with what we have seen in London for next summer’s Olympic Games security, an armed drone over the U.S. territory is at least an uncommon sight.

H/T to WOI for the heads-up

  • Looks fake to me. A prop-driven Predator or Reaper would not have jet sounds, and it’s moving awfully fast. Even if it was real, I seriously doubt the government would fly a drone armed with a HELLFIRE MISSILE! They MIGHT use it for surveillance but not attack!

  • trnsprt

    “even if someone believes the video is not genuine?” You can put me in that camp. It is almost certainly a fake to get people up in arms over the use of UAVs. Even when Customs and Border Protection flies UAVs along the border they must remain in restricted airspace unless accompanied by a piloted escort. There were no TFRs for UAV flights in the Illinois area on the 13th according to the FAA. The picture of the Hellfire attached is the unrealistic icing on the unrealistic cake.

    • Doc

      Possibly fake, but may also be used in case of some type of attack at the NATO conference as well

  • That’s a little alarming for a whole lot of reasons.

  • bobby123“

    fakity fake fake

    dont give him traffic.

  • Calling it “armed”, based on that video, is a bit of a stretch.

  • Kelly

    It’d be so fun to shoot that out of the sky. Fxxk the police state.

    • Mark

      You’d be violating federal law, no different than shooting at a traditionally manned aircraft. Furthermore, this is faker than fake. Even if it wasn’t, the camera on the RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) isn’t much different than those on police helicopters which fly lower and get a picture with more clarity due to the lower altitude.

  • Jeremy

    You know what? The more I look at it, the more I figure that shite is fake. The video looks fake as hell, and yeah that’s a PREDATOR drone with LIVE munitions over US city? BEFORE NATO? Yeah that’s fake as … heck. Also, this appears to be a Predator, and not the Reaper, and Predators don’t even have retractable landing gear, do they?

  • I’m as doubtful as you are about the video authenticity especially because any other person seeing drone would continue focusing on it with the camera zoom until losing sight of it.
    But, since not everybody shoot their footage the same way, although I suspect it can be a fake, I’m unable to rule out the possibility that it is true, so I’ll let you judgde by yourself.

  • Yeah, this one just doesn’t sound right. I could imagine far, far above basic security surveillance tied to the NATO summit. But an armed drone makes no sense — even as a test flight. Why would it ever occur so low to what appears to be a middle-school football field? Not passing the smell test.

  • bjoern h jespersen

    Ok, here is a few reasons to think it might not be fake:

    If the original video was shot without the drone, then the abrupt camera movement at 0:18 – 0:21 would make adding the drone later a serious challenge.

    One explanation for the “uninterested camera behaviour” could be that it’s on a tripod: first the camera is turned to catch the already spotted plane. As the plane enters the frame he doesn’t turn to follow the plane at first, but zooms in instead. Then – zoomed in – he starts to follow the plane, but gets in trouble with the tripod (the is a sound that could be from that). He zooms out, the plane exits the frame and the camera is pointed in almost exactly the same direction as when the plane entered the frame.

  • Veng

    The perspective of the drone doesnt change at all while the camera is moving. Looks pretty dodgy to me.

    • bjoern h jespersen

      to be honest, I thought that might be the case too. To be sure some reasonably good frames would have to be frozen and compared. I have just tried, but the quality of the images is to low to come to anything conclusive.

      One thing that would have to be considered is the optic effect of the zooming.

  • Steve

    AGM means air -to-ground-missile. You don’t have to say AGM, air-to-surface-missile. You just look silly.

    • AGM is the acronym used to designate the weapon. ASM (Air to Surface Missile) identifies the family of weapons regardless of their U.S. or vendor designation.

  • David,
    Don’t give the creator of the video airtime. Here is the image that he used to insert into the video. Also check out his other videos. He thinks that three aircraft using an upper air routes is breaking news!

    ‘HOAX! – Surveillance Drone Spotted Near Chicago – For NATO Summit’

    • Hi Tom,
      thank you.
      Indeed, this seems to be the most interesting evidence showing that the video is actually fake.

      • Perhaps the video is fake but the fact that the US authorities are pushing forward laws in order to be able to operate drones in US airspace must be taken into account, perhaps at some point it would be not so wild that armed drones will be flown to enforce security over the states.

        In the National Defense Authorization Act (section 1097) approved in FY2012 congress mandated that “the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at six test ranges.”

        So far hundreds of FAA authorizations had already been granted for use of unmanned aerial systems within U.S. airspace.

        -See FAA Reauthorization Act (HR 658)

        On the political side the discussion is usually heated by the fact that US citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi was killed in Yemen by UAV strike and the legal considerations of such acts under the US law and constitution.

        Certainly an issue to be watched over.

    • bjoern h jesoersen

      Can’t see the video but the photo makes a strong case: besides a seemingly matching angle, also the light/shadow distribution and intensity looks identical, despite different weather. I fold.

  • trnsprt

    Actually what makes a strong case is common sense. Again, the US does not allow UAV operations unless one of the following criteria has been met; the aircraft is escorted by a manned aircraft, the airspace has been designated as a Temporary Flight Restriction or the airspace is normally designated as special use (a restricted or prohibited area). I realize most of you are focusing on the merits of the actual video but the basic image portrayed does not pass the common sense “sniff test”. The fact that the image appears to show an armed UAV is even more asinine.

    Keep playing with the video, it is a fun distraction. But don’t lose sight of the totality of the evidence before you get too wrapped up in the minutia of the video.

  • For those following the story on the hoax and wondering where the debunking video has gone.

  • I seen that thing fly over Lasalle county the other day when I was fishing. If Obama gets re-elected he plans on having at least 2,000 drones watching all of us. LAND OF THE FREE LOL

  • it’s about as real as our faux presidents birth certificate

  • Druegan

    Don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember seeing an email exchange.. mighta been on Wikileaks, or one of the Anonymous dumps, where the Elgin police department was inquiring about the purchase of a drone for the purposes of surveillance and general policing..

    I don’t know if anything ever came of it, but this did trigger a memory.

  • A. Nonny Mouse

    I saw one of these over Prince William Forest Park a couple years ago. Since Quantico Marine base borders the park, this was not too unusual. They make a distinctive sound, not like a Cesna, not like a radio control model, but somewhere in between. “Bzzzzzzz” It was flying just above treetop level. I presume that if it was higher, the sound would be fainter, but I remember what they sound like, and if I hear that sound I’ll know what it is.