Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Police officers in Palm Bay, Florida, are piloting a paragliding program to primarily locate lost kids and missing senior citizens.
In the semi-retirement community of Palm Bay, Florida, law enforcement is taking flight to primarily look for lost kids and senior citizens who have wandered off. The police department is piloting a new program that sends up to five officers 100 feet in the air using powered paragliders for operations that include finding missing children and adults, surveillance and reconnaissance, locating stolen vehicles, identifying hazards within the city, photographing crime scenes, and damage assessment after natural disasters. Traditionally, Palm Bay police use helicopters, which are expensive and not nearly as effective. While helicopters can't go below 1,000 feet, powered paragliders allow officers to fly low and slow. By flying as low as 100 feet and just less than 30 mph, paragliding officers can see through tree canopies and other foilage more easily. The paragliders have been lent at no cost to the department until the pilot wraps up in November. If all goes well, and the police department is able to recruit other departments, such as fire, to use the paragliders, all the equipment will be donated to Palm Bay. No other agency in the U.S. currently uses powered paragliders for law enforcement purposes, making this program the first of its kind.