Having eyes-in-the-sky gives law enforcement agencies so many advantages, including speed, agility, greater line-of-sight and the ability to fly above traffic. But they face a variety of challenges, too.
For one, traditional aircraft need to fly relatively close to the ground to see detail, which means they see a much smaller piece of the larger picture, and their presence is much easier to detect, which can be a problem in pursuits and criminal investigations.
Two, people can be hard to identify from a distance, making it hard to pick someone out of a crowd, and impossible to find at night.
And three, training ALE operators is an expensive, time-consuming undertaking – and a significant barrier to budget-conscious agencies.
However, police forces have found a solution that tackles all of those challenges. WESCAM’s small and tactical MX systems are in use by law enforcement agencies around the world – including the California Highway Patrol air operations, the UK’s National Police Air Service, the Saskatoon Police Service, the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol. And here’s why:
High-definition sensors increase detection, recognition and identification range; operators can see more detail from greater distances. California Highway Patrol’s WESCAM-equipped aircraft can fly at 6000 feet, and yet still hone in on the tiniest details, from license plate numbers to hair color to specific articles of clothing individuals are wearing. They can identify a suspect in a crowd or find a missing child, and keep eyes on them from above until officers on the ground can reach them.
Seeing in the dark
WESCAM’s HD IR capabilities gives operators another distinct advantage: being able to track heat signatures. It’s valuable in so many situations, from finding a wandering child to policing illegal street racing.
Fairfax County’s Helicopter Division used the night vision capability to find a missing teen with a medical condition. Officers on the ground walked right by and didn’t see her – it was the helicopter’s thermal imaging technology that spotted her and saved her life. Read the story here.
When it comes to catching bad guys on the road, pursuit from the air is easier – the EO/IR sensors track a car engine’s heat signature. It makes night pursuits easier, and even when a suspect abandons their car, the infrared capabilities can keep tracking their body heat, leaving them with nowhere to hide.
When you can see more, you can do more
Since Saskatoon’s Air 1 program added WESCAM technology, arrests are up 20%, criminal charges by 39% and number of pursuits managed by a remarkable 58% – all in 12% fewer flight hours than the previous year. Plus, they have cut training time dramatically. Trainees only had to log 30% as many training hours, saving on aircraft leasing, fuel and personnel to the tune of $30,000 in just one year.
Watch the video – Sgt. Wade Bourassa, Pilot & Tactical Flight Officer, Saskatoon Police Department.
“We offer cost effective imaging technology for airborne law enforcement,” says Paul Jennison, L3 WESCAM VP of Government Sales and Business Development. “The results speak for themselves – arrests are up, costs are down, and policing is more effective overall.”
Find out more about how WESCAM systems are making our streets safer – and helping law enforcement officers do their job better.