A.I.R. (Ariel Intelligence and Response) to Help Law Enforcement

7:15 PM, Mar 22, 2011   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) - For parents who feel like they're constantly telling their kids to put down those video games, there may be a good side to those game as remote control loving kids may have a future in law enforcement.

There's a new tool out there designed to keep you safe and it's probably something that every little boy would do anything to have: a remote controlled helicopter.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department teamed up with the Columbia Police department, to create hovering, crime fighting machines. Officially, their knows as A.I.R., which stands for Ariel Intelligence and Response.

"They're able to do surveillance without putting human life in jeopardy," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

The remote controlled helicopters were unveiled on Tuesday during a press conference, where both law enforcement agencies gave demonstrations.

"This is an example of where jurisdictional boundaries are broken down for a criminal," said Columbia's Police Chief Randy Scott. "Quite simply put, they can't run."

They were built right here in the Midlands by Deputy Marcus Kim and Master Police Officer Joshua Bice. Both men are experienced in manning remote controlled aircrafts.

These small helicopters are already being used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Military. A few years ago, Deputy Kim said he approached Sheriff Lott about using similar technology in Richland County.

"I thought, hey... why not bring it to the Sheriff's Department," said Kim, "To help us have another eye in the sky as well."

And although the chopper is most likely fun to fly the benefits are no joke.

"It's just something new that we've looked at as a way to be more effective at saving the citizens money and also to save lives," explained Lott.

Right now there is just a camera attached to the machine but it is capable of doing more than just shoot video.

"We do have the capability of putting a weapon on there if we needed to," Lott Said. "We could put one on there. Hopefully we would never have to use it."

The cost of one of these helicopters?  About $2,800. But they are cheap to keep running. Lott said it takes about 25-cents worth of electricity to charge the battery and only about 25-cents worth of fuel. Compared to a real helicopter which costs hundreds of dollars ever time it's sent up.

The battery life of the unmanned aircrafts can vary, but they're capable of lasting up to 40 minutes. Officials say it only takes a few minutes to change out the batteries.

They are much smaller and quieter than a real helicopter making it easier to be discrete.

"It can be under cover," said Lott. "It can fly so high in the air that you're not going to really see it or hear it."

Besides surveillance, they can also be used during search and rescue operations and during accident reconstructions. Each department hopes to have more than one helicopter in the near future.

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