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Saturday, July 1, 2006

Packing The Tool Box

Law enforcement operators want more capability to convey from the air information on what's going on on the ground without paying much more for the gear needed for that work.

Airborne law enforcement units are looking to balance a constant demand for greater capability to support command and control of crime, emergency and homeland security sites with ever-present budget constraints.

Vendors are responding with new or refined equipment that, while at times more expensive, offers greater ability to collect, integrate and relay information from the "bird's eye view" of what is transpiring on the ground.

On the communications front, Northern Airborne Technology Ltd. recently won the approval and acceptance of the U.S. Forestry Service of its NPX136D-070 digital P25 transceiver.

The panel-mounted, self-contained, APCO Project 25 compliant VHF transceiver is designed for a single user and can be programmed for wideband/narrowband/digital operation on a per-channel basis. A separate guard volume and guard transmit select switch is provided. NAT tailored the design of the radio for the space and weight restriction of helicopters and light, fixed-wing aircraft.

The NPX136D-070 also has an online "Help" screen to foster intuitive operation. Customers can use PC software to upload and download channels and store multiple sets of operating frequencies. NAT says one radio's channel information can be "cloned" to another unit for "fast and easy updates."

Technisonic Industries is pushing its TDFM-7000 series of FM transceivers for law enforcement, public safety and air medical operations. The configurable, multi-band airborne transceiver can support any mix of up to four VHF (136-174 MHz) UHF Lo (380-470 MHz), UHF Hi (450-520 MHz) and both the 700-MHz and 800-MHz band (764-870 MHz) modules, according to the company.

Heli-Dyne Systems recently won a completion contract for the Westchester County, N.Y., Police Dept.'s new Bell 407 that includes installation of Technisonic's TDFM-71158.

Wulfsberg opened the year with FAA certification of its FliteLine suite of communications and navigation equipment and since has been producing line replaceable units for VHF communications, VHF navigation, and DME. The equipment is designed to work in concert with the color control display units.

The FliteLine system was designed to allow installation of a complete six-unit control display suite (two for communications, two for navigation, one ADF and transponder controls) in one-third less panel space, according to Wulfsberg. The FliteLine equipment features unique full-color displays, and is lightweight and affordable.

On the situational awareness front, AeroComputers plans to field its latest moving-map, the UltiChart MIL-5000, shortly; it has said it will be available in the third quarter. The tactical moving map system is designed for use in the harshest environments, according to the company. It is intended to integrate GPS-based moving maps, image collection and transmission, illumination and data storage for all airborne applications.

"While the UltiChart MIL-5000TM shares a common heritage with our existing product line, we engineered it to meet the exacting requirements of military customers", said Mark Gassaway, AeroComputers president.

Separately, the Fort Worth, Texas Police Air Support Div. purchased two AeroComputers UltiChart LE 500 GPS mapping systems for its aircraft.

The systems will replace paper-based maps with customizable, GPS-based moving maps that offer local, nationwide and application-specific coverage.

"With the entire Tarrant County [Texas] parcel data loaded, coupled with our Wescam IR systems, we will be able to decrease our response time and enhance our capabilities within the department," said Jay Paschke, Air Support Division Chief Pilot.

Flight Management Systems is working with Robinson Helicopter Co. following that manufacturer's successful flight testing late last year of FMS' Moving Map system integrated with a mobile dispatch terminal. The testing was conducted in cooperation with the Fontana, Calif. Police Dept. and California Aviation Services in an R44 Police helicopter.

The system is intended to allow real-time communications with dispatch, as well as complete use of the fully functional moving map.

On the imagery front, Los Angeles Police Dept. Air Support Div. late last year deployed Cineflex's V14 HiDEF high-definition aerial imaging system for its airborne law enforcement missions. Cineflex claims the system delivers images three times more detailed than standard definition quality.

The Cineflex V14 HiDEF is able to conduct surveillance missions from much higher altitudes and greater standoff distances than previously possible, according to the company. With its extreme long lens technology and full HD resolution camera containing over two million pixels (1920X1080 lines of resolution), the V14 HiDEF provides the ability to covertly monitor suspects with an unprecedented level of detail from thousands of feet up.

Several U.S. airborne law enforcement units are flying IAI's POP200 optronic payload. They include the Dale County, Ala., Sheriff's Office; the Arizona Public Services Dept. and the St. Louis County, Mo., Police Dept. The lightweight gyro-stabilized POP200 is a modular, day/night observation system that includes a high-performance focal plane array thermal imager (IR), a color CCD TV camera, automatic video tracking and a laser pointer.

Microwave Radio Communications is making a push in the airborne law enforcement and homeland security markets. The company late last year hosted its first annual public safety users forum and training session in league with the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing.

The two-day conference at the police hangar in Plymouth, Mass. was designed to showcase the company's products and give law enforcement agencies from that state hands-on training environment to improve their video downlink skills and learn about the latest technology. The event's theme was an interagency day of information sharing.

Six law enforcement agencies participated with their own command vehicles receiving transmissions from the Massachusetts State Police Helicopter, according to the company.

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