POLICE Magazine

AUG 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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T 20 POLICE AUGUST 2019 e first practical night vision systems were mounted on World War II tanks. With good reason; they were not exactly man-por- table. Today, however, when we think of night vision systems, we generally don't think about vehicles. Night vision systems in law enforcement are most common today on the helmets of tactical operators working to achieve an objective with stealth and surprise. ey're also often seen in the hands of officers surveilling a location or a person or searching for someone lost in the woods. What is less known is that law enforcement vehicle operators, including helicopter pilots, often use night vision to enhance their capabilities. AVIATION NVG ere are two types of night vision commonly used in law en- forcement aviation operations: light intensification and ther- mal systems. Light intensification systems are the tubed gog- gles that take small amounts of ambient light such as that from the stars and moon and amplify it to the point where you can see in the dark. ermal systems use sensors to convert the temperature differential between objects and living things and their surroundings into visible images. Guy Blocker, field applications and law enforcement busi- ness development manager for FLIR Systems (www.flir.com), has long used and instructed others on how to use both types of night vision for both ground and air op- erations. He says flying a helicopter with night vision goggles (NVG) gives the pilot a better idea of what hazards including power lines and hillsides await in the dark. Blocker, who piloted helicopters for the Army in some of the earliest NVG aviation programs, says the best night vision systems for pilots are dual tube goggles. "You need both eyes in the system so you are not getting mixed signals," he ex- plains. ere are many benefits of a dual tube system for pilots, ac- cording to Blocker. ese include depth perception and dis- tance estimation. "When you have one eye in and one eye out, you are constantly second guessing yourself and that's not the time to be doing that." In addition to safety, another reason that more and more law enforcement pilots are flying at night with NVG is stealth. Im- age intensification lets them fly in the dark, and it lets them use infrared spotlights not readily visible to the naked eye to light up targets on the ground. Blocker says that unless the suspect knows what to look for, he'll hear the helicopter but not see it. AVIATION THERMAL Police aviation teams consist of a pilot and an observer working together. One of the jobs of the observer is to track the suspect on the ground using forward looking infrared (FLIR). One of the manufacturers of these systems is Blocker's employer, FLIR Systems. e FLIR camera is usually mounted on a gimbal on the bot- tom of the helicopter, and the user inside the helicopter can maneuver the system to pinpoint the suspect on the ground. Blocker says the FLIR cameras on law enforcement helicopters have cooled systems and larger lenses that give them much great- er capabilities than the smaller systems used on the ground. "You can pick out targets at a mile or two miles while orbiting at 2,000 feet," he explains. ON THE GROUND Blocker says that in the same fash- ion that NVG are used to pilot he- licopters at night they can also be used to drive ground vehicles. "You can turn off the lights and drive down the road as if your vehicle was illuminated by headlights," he says. Typical law enforcement applications for driving with NVG PHOTO: MSM PUBLIC SAFET Y PHOTO: FLIR SYSTEMS IN THE AIR AND ON THE GROUND, THE ABILITY TO SEE IN THE DARK WHILE MOBILE ENHANCES CRIME FIGHTING CAPABILITIES AND MAKES OFFICERS SAFER. Thermal systems such as this FLIR Systems Scion PTM cannot "see" through glass. So users must roll down the window or use an externally mounted system. Noptic thermal imaging system atop patrol vehicle spotlight. Noptic uses the pan and tilt capabilities of the spotlight system to give officers the ability to view a specific target. The system comes with a spotlight head. USING NIGHT VISION IN LAW ENFORCEMENT VEHICLES David Griffith

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