TPD's New Helicopter GPS System Makes Chases Easier, Safer

Monday, July 15th 2013, 5:54 pm
By: News On 6

A new technology is making it easier for Tulsa Police to find criminals from the air. The new system lets the helicopter pilot see street names or other landmarks on a computer in the cockpit.

TPD has been using this new system since January. They say, in these seven months, it's nearly paid for itself by making response times quicker and keeping patrol officers safe.

Sunday morning, police arrested a 26-year old Tulsa man with a history of drug possession. He was taken into custody after, police say, he refused to pull over for a traffic stop.

"The use of that new system on the helicopter really guided us to catch a suspect tonight we may not have otherwise," said Sgt. Matt McCoord.

McCoord was chasing the suspect on the ground with guidance from the air support team.

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"In a pursuit, things are happening so fast that time is real critical," said Sgt. Nick Cory.

Cory is in charge of the Tulsa Police Air Support Unit. He also credits the new GPS enabled computer system for Sunday's quick arrest.

It's called ARS or Augmented Reality System. It overlays street names or addresses or landmarks on top of the image from the FLIR camera--that's the thermal camera mounted under the cockpit.

The typical picture from the FLIR looks like just a simple aerial view, with the ARS, it's much easier for the pilot to know exactly where a suspect is located, which means no more educated guesses.

"Before we would have to go, 'Well, they're behind a house, third house from the corner on the east side of the road,'" Cory said.

At $150,000 a pop TPD could only afford to buy one system for just one helicopter, and in the short time it's been in use it's become very popular, not just with the air support team but with the officers on the ground, as well.

"Lots of times when we're out flying the patrol officers ask us which helicopter we're in because they're hoping we're in one with this ARS system in it," Cory said.

Police say the new system gives them, literally, a heads-up on the bad guys and where they can be found.

TPD says the other helicopter is scheduled to be replaced and they're hoping to add an ARS to the budget for the new helicopter.