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Lancaster approves police surveillance by plane

November 9, 2011 |  3:51 pm

An example of the surveillance plane being considered by the city of Lancaster.
Lancaster city officials have unanimously approved a measure that would allow police to use a plane affixed with high-tech optical equipment to record the movements of people on the ground.

The aerial surveillance program, slated to begin by next May, will involve a piloted Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft that would circle the Antelope Valley city at altitudes of 1,000 to 3,000 feet some 10 hours a day.

The technology affixed to the plane and developed by Lancaster-based Spiral Technology Inc. will record video footage that will be transmitted to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

All five Lancaster City Council members voted Tuesday to approve the program, which will cost $1.3 million. Financing for the initiative would come from existing funds in the fiscal year budget, city officials said.

The charge for surveillance is expected to run around $300 an hour, or about $90,000 a month. The aircraft would be fueled and maintained at a local Lancaster airfield.

Local law enforcement officials hailed the new technology as a way to add superior surveillance, patrol and investigative capabilities to their crime-fighting arsenal.

 -- Ann M. Simmons


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Photo: An example of the type of surveillance plane equipped with optical technology that Lancaster officials have agreed to use to aid police.

Credit: Spiral Technology Inc.