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Police take to the skies in ‘advanced’ new helicopter

York Regional Police (YRP) has replaced its Air2 helicopter with an Airbus H125, an aircraft renowned for its agility, fuel range, power and speed.

The new helicopter boasts more than twice the power and endurance than its predecessor and with more space on board, can accommodate emergency response or search-and-rescue units.

The industry standard in policing, the Airbus H125 has been deployed in more than 200 police organizations across the world. Its 900HP engine allows up to four-and-a-half hours of flight time and better takeoff performance and requires less frequent maintenance than the Air2.

“This excellent new aircraft, with its advanced abilities and technology, embodies our modern police service,” YRP Chief Jim MacSween says. “An upgraded helicopter like this ensures that Air2 will continue to provide vital support to our officers and the communities we serve.”

It’s equipped with high-visibility doors and night-vision features, a camera sensor with infrared technology, an augmented reality mapping system, a search light capable of operating in various lighting conditions, a public address/siren system to communicate with people on the ground, and a video downlink system to provide police commanders with real-time livestream video of events.

Infrared technology is non-intrusive and only detects the difference in heat on the nearest surface to the camera. A person walking across a field, for example, would be displayed as hot because he/she is emitting greater amounts of heat than the field he/she is walking on. Glass is a reflective surface to infrared technology so windows appear as a grey shade to the camera operator.

YRP launched its Air Support Unit with a pilot project in 2000 using a donated Enstrom 480 aircraft before the Police Services Board approved the purchase of a Eurocopter EC120, dubbed ‘Air2.’ Last year, that helicopter reached its end-of-life milestone of 20 years of service and 20,000 operational hours. The YRP Services Board approved the YRP Executive Command Team’s request to replace it with the $7.1-million Airbus H125.

The Air Support Unit includes civilian pilots and tactical flight officers trained in patrol and suspect tactics, airborne surveillance and advanced thermal imaging, which has helped officers identify indoor cannabis grow operations. The unit supports frontline officers with criminal apprehensions, vehicle pursuits, searches for missing persons and traffic enforcement.

In 2022 alone, Air2 supported 1,373 calls for service, assisted officers on 266 traffic stops and helped make 213 arrests for commercial robberies, carjackings, break and enters, impaired driving, street racing and other offences. Additionally, Air2 located 15 missing and vulnerable people, YRP reports.

Photo: York Regional Police has replaced its Air2 helicopter with an Airbus H125, an aircraft renowned for its agility, fuel range, power and speed. (YRP photo)

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