Airborne LE: Think Outside the Box

Perhaps not too far in the future, police officers will patrol with their own helicopter.

Other agencies are utilizing light sport aircraft (LSA) to provide their airborne law enforcement services. Once again, cost is a driving factor. "If I could provide many of the same effective services cheaper, why wouldn't I consider such an option?" remarks one police chief.


Although airships have gone the way of the steam engine in terms of carrying passengers or freight, some feel they have a place as a surveillance platform in law enforcement. In fact, the NYPD has leased a commercial airship and assigned personnel as well as a camera to downlink conditions to several major events. An NYPD Chief explains, "The airship has a six hour loiter time and is able to provide high quality video without needing fuel." The airship comes equipped with a bathroom to facilitate any personal need during the mission.

The Future

As the strain on municipal budgets grows, governments are always looking to do more with less. The ability to provide safe and effective airborne law enforcement platforms continues to remain a challenge. Agencies are constantly looking for alternatives to still provide this capability while containing costs. Unmanned aerial systems and alternative manned aircraft may offer some answers.

Obviously, the future will include a mix of both manned and unmanned aerial systems. The driving force behind any of these powerful tools and programs should be safety and the ability to save lives.

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