The Austin Police Department recently announced the introduction of a new technology, which is expected to provide life-saving benefits when used as a part of its aerial operations support unit.
The technology, FLIR (an acronym for Forward Looking Infrared), consists of aircraft cameras with imaging technology. Through infrared radiation capabilities, the FLIR sensors are able to detect the presence of heat sources. This type of technology is particularly useful for aerial teams who may need to search in the dark and in less-than-ideal conditions, such as fog, and is capable of detecting warm objects against cooler backgrounds.
The Austin Police Department recognizes FLIR as a potentially life-saving piece of technology, as it becomes nearly impossible to see through the canopy of trees within the greenbelt.
FLIR has already been successfully tested and used by the team during a recent mission. Through FLIR, a spotlight, and night vision goggles, Austin’s aerial team was able to successfully locate a lost hiker within 30 seconds of being on the scene.
Austin Police Department’s Corporal Tantaksinanukij says he believes that their use of FLIR is the first of its kind among air support units in the United States.
Austin’s Air Operations Unit
Austin Police Department’s Air Operations Unit includes one lieutenant, one sergeant, one corporal, three police officers, and two civilian aircraft maintenance technicians. The unit also includes three tactical flight officers and two helicopter pilots. All patrol missions are flown with at least one tactical flight officer and one pilot.
Further, all helicopter pilots are dual-rated for both airplanes and helicopters, with at least one commercial rating.
The Air Operations Unit operates both patrol and support missions within the Greater Austin Metro Area, and a crew is always available to respond on a 24-hour basis. Missions are flown both during the day and nighttime hours.