Tracking fugitives with aviation technology

Airborne Law Enforcement has been in existence almost since the inception of the first airplane. The industry as a whole is ever-evolving, with military and law enforcement operations concentrated on obtaining a better vantage point via aerial operations.

While the New York City Police Department claims to be the first airborne unit created in 1929, the actual creator of the first unit is highly contested. Initially, airplanes ruled the skies, but when helicopters became more prevalent law enforcement agencies began to realize the benefits of the ability to fly “low and slow” above their ground based units and operations. Initial airborne operations were rudimentary, often forcing the pilot to have printed maps of the area in the cockpit and acquiring the suspects visually rather than today’s high tech options.

History of Airborne Law Enforcement

Beginning in the 1990’s, the US military started releasing additional military surplus equipment, including helicopters. The OH-58 and OH-6 became very easy to obtain for a nominal fee through the surplus programs. In spite of the low initial acquisition costs the costs to operate these helicopters remained very high. Depending upon multiple direct and indirect costs variables, even a smaller helicopter, such as the Bell OH-58, could have operating costs exceeding $500 an hour.

As the number of helicopters increased, the adaptations of technological advances in other markets allowed agencies to now retrofit their aircraft with modern, state of the art, surveillance equipment. Infrared cameras became the norm, and the paper maps once carried in the cockpit were replaced with computer-based mapping systems. In addition video recording was adapted, allowing the agencies to have the ability to record the criminals in the act and thus provide evidence in court.

The rapid improvements in technology in the computer industry provided for advanced improvements within airborne surveillance technology as well. Infrared cameras became clearer and crisper with HD quality and increased zoom capability. Mapping software and their systems became more precise, allowing for the acquisition of an exact address and location of objects the camera focuses on.

Surveillance Equipment Requirements and Regulations

Initially, the slower processing ability of the surveillance equipment necessitated the requirement to fly “low and slow” over the area in support of ground based units. However, the evolving technology now allows an agency to question historical methods. Does an agency now required to fly in a helicopter, at lower altitudes and airspeeds, in order to be an effective airborne unit? Does a unit have to operate a helicopter, spending millions in acquisition costs and high hourly operating costs, or are there rotor-alternatives available?

ConciAir firmly believes that, with the evolving technology, an agency can now effectively operate from 1000 to 2000 feet above the ground with a fixed wing platform. Such a platform will be able to be acquired and operated at less than half the cost of a traditional helicopter unit, thus allowing the more than 92% of agencies without a current airborne law enforcement unit the chance to provide Justita Desuper, or “Justice from Above”.

Questions regarding the financial feasibility of airborne law enforcement programs are not new. During economic downturns, some agencies began to restrict and limit their operations. Others cut their units altogether. Some, like the California Highway Patrol (CHP), began to think “outside the box” to find alternative means for conducting airborne operations. The CHP blended a Cessna 210 into their existing helicopter fleet to offer seamless “Justitia Desuper” while offering cost effective solutions for their taxpayer funded operations. While proving a fixed wing aircraft can be effective as an airborne platform at a lower cost than most helicopters, the Cessna 210 is still too expensive for the budgets of the masses due to its high fuel consumption.

As a result, ConciAir has identified the need to provide an economical to operate, low acquisition cost, fixed wing platform to agencies throughout North America. Through our due diligence, we feel that certain Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) can be operated as effectively as a helicopter or the CHP’s Cessna 210 at a mere fraction of the acquisition and operational cost. A new, fully equipped aircraft sans the surveillance equipment, can be obtained for less than $80,000. Operational costs drop from $500 an hour on an OH-58 to less than $50 an hour on a LSA.

The United States government has even supported research, through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Aviation Technology Program, to determine the feasibility of our initiative. The results have been promising, and as a result ConciAir is charging forward with its airborne law enforcement program. We have chosen ICP North America and Cloud Cap Technologies as our strategic partners to develop the Guardian, a technologically advanced airborne surveillance adaption of the proven Savannah aircraft line.

In addition to providing a cost effective, turnkey, aircraft solution ConciAir will provide its customers a sole source vendor for their complete airborne law enforcement needs. Our business acumen, combined with our direct airborne law enforcement experience, allows us to provide multiple services, under one roof, that are simply not offered as a complete package in the industry. Hiring ConciAir gives an agency the ability to have one vendor assist with budgetary design and analysis, governmental RFP process guidance, aircraft selection and acquisition, pilot on boarding and training, and recurrent training for the life of the unit.

One goal. One vendor. One solution. ConciAir. We look forward to helping your agency in the near future. Please email Stan Pruitt, Director of Sales, at or directly on his cell at 407-619-7348 for more information.