The Missouri State Highway Patrol is using new technology that can be described as Google Maps on steroids. It helps pilots search for missing persons and better track possible suspects.
The Augmented Reality System works with technology that has already been on highway patrol aircraft for several years. It places addresses, road names and businesses on the images produced by the Forward Looking Infrared camera, or FLIR.
“It uses Google Earth, that application. But it goes a little bit farther,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Al Nothum.
“It will give the block number. It will give you the address. It will give you a lot of information.”
Only one helicopter is equipped with ARS at this point. It is based in Jefferson City, but is available for operations throughout the state.
“It will be dispatched out and can be used and really be more a lot more helpful than just a regular FLIR.”
The Highway Patrol received a grant to install the technology for what is essentially a trial run. And it’s already proven to be helpful.
Last month, a couple of motorcyclists were involved in a chase in St. Charles County after refusing to stop for state troopers. The pilot tracked the motorcycles and guided officers on the ground to their location using the advanced technology.
“Troopers went there and actually arrested them and actually found a felony amount of drugs,” Nothum said.
“It turned into a bigger thing than someone just failing to yield for an emergency vehicle.”
The helicopter with ARS is expected to be involved in an operation this week in the St. Louis area.
Law enforcement officials point out there are more uses than following wayward drivers or tracking potential criminals.
“Such as someone lost in the woods, or out on the river,” Nothum told St. Louis Public Radio.
“It’s going to be a great tool for Missouri as far as law enforcement goes.”