Highway Patrol chopper uses infrared to save lives


SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Infrared technology isn’t new. But it’s a technology the Missouri State Highway Patrol says it can count on to save lives. Now, troopers are sharing how the technology works.

Trooper Sam Carpenter says the Patrol installed its chopper with an infrared camera in 2016.

“We added that addition of the forward-looking infrared cameras with the map overlay system to our Bell 407 that we keep in Jefferson City,” says Carpenter.

Courtesy: Missouri State Highway Patrol

He says, with the technology, Patrol can locate people and vehicles both day and night.

“It overlays a mapping system. It shows us direction, street name, addresses, businesses, local points of interests, and allows us to coordinate pursuits on the ground form the air to keep everybody safe,” says Carpenter.

Courtesy: Highway Patrol

He says the chopper’s infrared camera is used for:

  • High-speed chases
  • Finding missing people
  • Severe weather incidents like flooding and after a tornado

Inside the Bell 407, you’ll find a pilot manning the controls. You’ll find a tactical flight officer manning the camera.

According to a tweet from the Missouri State Highway Patrol headquarters, they are accepting applications for both positions.

“The TFO is responsible for all non-pilot functions while airborne. This includes operating the cameras, communicating with ground units, and offering a second set of eyes to the pilot for safety,” says Sgt. Dustin Metzner, a tactical flight officer.

Below are some success stories, listed in a press release, of the technology:

  • On an evening in December 2019, members of the Aircraft Division located a suicidal subject that had taken a large number of pills and fled into a wooded area. The subject was located by the aircrew, who then directed officers to their location. The subject received medical attention needed and has recovered from the incident.
  • In spring 2019, members of the Aircraft Division located a male subject armed with a knife who was wanted for a domestic dispute. The man was taken into custody.
  • On an evening in November 2019, the Aircraft Division’s aircrew located a subject wanted for a shooting during a domestic dispute.
  • In 2018, the Aircraft Division aircrew located a subject armed with a rifle who had fled into the woods near a school. The subject was located and taken into custody.

Overall, Highway Patrol’s Aircraft Division has assisted law enforcement agencies with 114 pursuits and has tracked 103 successfully, since July 2016. The Aircraft Division’s success rate is 90.36%.

“Once the helicopter gets involved and starts tracking, especially in a pursuit, our officers and vehicles on the ground can slow considerably or discontinue the chase altogether then the suspect that has been fleeing also slows down because they think maybe that we gave up or that we lost sight of them. It makes it safe for everybody, the officers involved, the suspect themselves, and the general public,” says Carpenter.

He says that the helicopter will follow the suspect until they stop then inform ground officers to make contact.

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