New technology helping APD in aerial rescues


by KVUE News

Posted on October 24, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 10:02 AM

AUSTIN -- The Austin Police Department is using new technology for a first-of-its-kind aerial rescue.

It is potentially life-saving because in the dark, it's nearly impossible to see through the canopy of trees that make up the greenbelt. So when Austin police got the call Saturday about a missing hiker, they told the woman to keep her phone on.

"We were using our FLIR and our spotlight," said Senior Police Officer Kurt Wernicke of the Austin Police Department.

FLIR stands for Forward Looking Infrared. 

But it wasn't just Austin police equipment that saved the day. Once officers had the helicopter positioned over the greenbelt, that's when they were able to zero in on the lost hiker using her iPhone.

"The iPhone has an IR proximity sensor ... so it's constantly on and blinking," explained Corporal Wut Tantaksinanukij of the Austin Police Department.

In addition to the flashing IR sensor, police asked her to turn on the phone's light.

"When the aircraft got overhead, I needed her to shine her phone toward the airfract and we would be able to pick her up on our NVG goggles, which are night vision goggles," said Corporal Tantaksinanukij. "Probably within 30 seconds of being on scene, we were able to locate her."

After that it was just a matter of guiding the hiker to officers on the ground. 

Austin police say the rescue is the first of its kind.

"I haven't heard of that anywhere else in the country with the other air support units that I'm aware of," said Corporal Tantaksinanukij.

They say it's technology they will use the next time they take flight.