Photograph of San Diego Police ABLE Helicopter taken by Althepal on Wikimedia Commons

San Diego puts internet, GPS in choppers

Police in San Diego can now patrol the skies with internet-enabled helicopters.

A partnership between the city and AT&T puts GPS service and a secure two-way network connection in the Airborne Law Enforcement helicopter fleet.

The new technology can help officers on the ground locate and track the helicopters using the aircraft’s onboard GPS. The system also logs and provides post-flight mission reporting, which includes helicopter coverage trails and flight paths.

The wireless LTE network and custom-designed, secure internet connection let tactical flight officers connect ruggedized tablets to police communications and dispatch systems while in the air. They can file reports that rely on visual inspection, freeing up officers on the ground to respond to other calls. Upon completing their missions, airborne police can use the technology to follow up on their other cases.

The solution should improve the efficient use of the helicopter fleet and optimize crime caseload management, AT&T officials said.  

Previously, tactical flight officers were unable to access the department’s computer-aided dispatch system that provides up-to-date information about evolving incidents.   

“When police officers are protecting our communities, I want to make sure they have the best technology at their disposal,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “This idea came directly from one of our officers, and AT&T was enthusiastic about working with us to make it a reality. This now gives officers in the air powerful new tools to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at or @sjaymiller.

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