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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
PSNI in the sky with helicopter
The PSNI has received its first helicopter
The PSNI has received its first helicopter
Northern Ireland's first police helicopter will be a significant help during the marching season, Chief Constable Hugh Orde has said.

The 3.7m Eurocopter EC135, which has state-of-the-art camera equipment and infrared filming, will be based at Aldergrove in County Antrim.

It will pursue car criminals, manage parades, search for missing people and gather video evidence.

Running the helicopter will cost 750,000 per year.

It will be flown by a civilian contract pilot who will work with two police observers. Police plan to use it 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I see this helicopter as a very positive step for policing in Northern Ireland," Chief Constable Hugh Orde said.

"Bearing in mind the marching season is approaching, we would see this as a very important asset in our armoury to deal with that particular issue."

He said it would also be very useful in combating car crime as it would minimise the danger to the public when stolen vehicles were being chased.

The helicopter can download images to operation centres across Northern Ireland.

Mr Orde said he had been very surprised when he took over in Northern Ireland to discover the PSNI was one of only two UK police forces which did not have a helicopter.

The helicopter has state-of-the-art equipment
The helicopter has state-of-the-art equipment

Previously the force had mainly relied on the Army for aerial reconnaissance, although there was a police plane.

"We shouldn't rely on the Army. No other police service has Army support," the chief constable said.

"It has been very valuable to us in the past, but as we move towards normality, it is right that we have our own capability."

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