Crew get night vision

The East Midlands Air Support Unit has become the first police operation in the UK to go live with the whole crew now working with night vision goggles under new Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

Feb 23, 2006
By David Howell

The East Midlands Air Support Unit has become the first police operation in the UK to go live with the whole crew now working with night vision goggles under new Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

The Unit, which provides aerial cover for police forces in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire, has purchased three sets of Fenns NG2000 Night Vision Goggles and had its helicopter’s internal lighting fully converted to be compatible with the eyewear.

The goggles improve the aircraft crew’s spatial awareness at night, allowing the pilot and two air observers to see the ground, buildings, other obstructions and even wires, which was previously near impossible at night, particularly in very dark rural areas, or ‘black holes’, where there is little ambient light such as street lights, building lights or vehicle lights.

Mick Dunn, Executive Officer of the East Midlands Air Support Unit, said: “We are thrilled that the whole crew is now able to use the night vision goggles which has taken us two years to achieve under Civil Aviation Authority and international aviation rules because of the fact that we are the first police operation in the UK to use the technology under the new rules and regulations.

“As well as the air observers extending their night-time operational capabilities through the use of both night vision goggles and the onboard thermal image cameras, it also greatly enhances flight safety for the pilot, particularly when operating in very dark rural areas.”

The introduction of the night vision system has cost a total of £160,000, which includes nearly £50,000 for the three sets of goggles and the remainder spent on converting the aircraft lighting. The bulk of the cost has been funded by a £121,000 Home Office grant with the rest having been jointly funded by Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire police forces.

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