WSP Launches FLIR-Equipped Aircraft to Search for Disabled Vehicles

OLYMPIA: The State Of Washington has issued following Press Release:

The Washington State Patrol has launched a Cessna aircraft equipped with a Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) camera to search for occupied disabled vehicles in King, Pierce and Thurston Counties.

Today's clear weather permits the flights, which frequently can't be done when a snowstorm and clouds continue to hamper visibility. The goal is to find those who might have been stranded in their car on stretches of road that can't be patrolled.

"Our aircraft can cover large areas much faster than ground based troopers," said Sergeant Jim Nobach of WSP's Aviation Section. "We can also check those sections of road that troopers can't get to because of downed trees or power lines."

When they spot a vehicle, the flight crew will first do a visual search with the zoom color camera looking for movement or occupants inthe vehicle. Then, the crew will do a thermal scan of the vehicle looking for any heat signatures.

The stabilized FLIR camera can detect heat from occupants in the vehicle (due to warm windows). If an occupant is leaning against a window the FLIR can detect the heat and see a body silhouette. The thermal scan also determines if the engine is running or still warm. If these indicators fail to determine a status of a vehicle, the flight crew uses the FLIR to determine if any heat from the tail pipe still exists.

If the flight crew believes occupants are still in a stranded vehicle, real-time video is broadcast to the closest WSP Communication Center and WSDOT Traffic Management Center. A trooper or other emergency responder can then be dispatched to assist, along with whatever equipment might be necessary to clear obstacles.

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