HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – When the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office released video from their helicopter showing a drunk driving suspect literally falling out of his car, the reaction in the community was impressive. Law enforcement agencies across the bay area are currently using FLIR infrared cameras on their aircraft.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has a camera on each of its helicopters. It also employs the same technology with its marine unit. Sergeant Kevin Langiotti has been with the sheriff’s office aviation unit for 15-years and says the technology simply keeps evolving. “The technology has gotten so much better in a short period of time,” said Langiotti standing in front of one of the sheriff’s office helicopters. “It’s truly unbelievable the work this camera system allows us to do in law enforcement. Especially in airborne law enforcement.”
Advancement in cameras includes how well they see in the dark and how far they can zoom. In recent memory, pilots would have to fly at a lower elevation in order to capture clear images. Not anymore. “These cameras have allowed us to be a safer operation. With the technology and zoom capabilities, we’re able to fly higher,” said Sgt. Langiotti. “Allowing us to do the same type of work as we did back in the day at a lower altitude, now it’s a much safer operation.”
Flying at a higher altitude is safer, especially after sunset, because it allows pilots and observers more time if a malfunction forces an unplanned landing. Aviators have more time to scope out a safe place to land, such as an open field or even a rural roadway.
FLIR, the company that manufactures a bulk of the equipment law enforcement aviation units utilize, plans to feature the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in a promotional video later this month.