This week a Connecticut teenager uploaded a video to YouTube showing off a quadcopter with a working flamethrower attached to it that was being used to literally roast a turkey. The obviously home-built flamethrowing drone is actually a pretty cool custom UAV, and in fact the YouTube video included links to several quadcopter components that were used to construct it. The video was uploaded by drone and quadcopter enthusiast Austin Haughwout, who called his video “Roasting the Holiday Turkey.” The video shows four minutes of footage shot from various angles showing the quadcopter gleefully spraying flames on the titular frozen bird that had been suspended between two logs on a spit.
Haughwout is the same hobbyist who was notoriously assaulted by a women in early 2014 who erroneously believed that he was using a different, non-weaponized, drone to peep on women at the beach. And of course last year he became the focus of a local police investigation after uploading another YouTube video showing a firearm attached to a custom-built quadcopter. This new video had a logo for HobbyKing.com on it, likely due to many of the parts having been sold by HobbyKing.com. It is unclear if the drone was actually endorsed by Hobby king, or just a source for many of the parts. But it is possible that this was an attempt to capitalize on Haughwout’s ability to upload viral videos.
The video description mentions that in addition to the HobbyKing parts, several customized 3D printed parts were used to build the quadcopter. It is unclear how legal it is to equip flamethrowers to drones. But when Haughwout was investigated by the FAA and the local police for his gun-firing drone last year it was determined that there isn’t actually a law against weaponizing drones, UAVs or quadcopters. However there has been no official comments from the FAA or the Clinton, Connecticut police regarding this new drone or a possible second investigation from the authorities.
“Your email to me is the first time that I have heard of this latest development involving the young man you mentioned. I just spoke with my Deputy Chief John Carbone (my immediate supervisor) regarding your request for comment, and after speaking with him it was decided we (Clinton PD) have no comment on this matter, at this time,” Clinton Police Sgt. J. Dunn told a local news station News 8 when they contacted him for a statement.
You can take a look at the video of the flamethrowing quadcopter here:
Opinions of Haughwout’s new project has so far been pretty mixed, with several of his followers wanting their own and admiring his work while others admonished him for the lack of safety. Several YouTube commenters even pointed out that operating remote controlled aircraft that carried exploding or burning devices violated the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code. However the AMA Safety code is not backed by any official laws or FAA regulations, so there isn’t much to be done about breaking any of their rules. Still, several drone and RC aircraft advocates were not happy with Haughwout.
“Anyone who does anything of this nature or a similar nature is operating unsafely and irresponsibly, and I certainly would not condone it and I would certainly chastise it as would any responsible operator. It could very well have created a much larger fire that might very well have endangered the life or property of another,” drone advocate Peter Sachs told News 8.
While there are FAA rules against operating any aircraft in a careless or reckless manner that could endanger the life or property of another, to no one’s surprise there are no official rules from the FAA specifically regarding flamethrower-equipped quadcopters. It is also worth mentioning that according to Haughwout’s father while the drone was roasting the poultry in question, they had several buckets of water, fire extinguishers, and water hoses standing by in case anything got out of hand. He also said that the immediate area had been cleared of excess debris before the filming. According to WFSB, the police are now investigating the legalities of Haughwout’s flamethrowing drone.
Personally I’m not really sure how I feel about armed drones. Certainly on the surface the idea of equipping dangerous weapons onto RC aircraft sounds like a terrible one that could go horribly wrong very quickly, but it’s hard to see the video and not marvel at Haughwout’s ingenuity. My only real concern would be the danger of any armed drones, equipped with either a firearm or a flamethrower, potentially being out of the control of the operator. But one thing is very certain, using a flamethrower is a really poor method of cooking a turkey for the holidays.
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