Minnesota State Patrol Acquires New Spy-plane

Minnesota State Patrol Acquires New Spy-plane

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Minneapolis (NSP) – The Minnesota State Patrol has purchased the first Cirrus surveillance aircraft in partnership with UTC Aerospace Systems and FLIR Systems Inc., according to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Cirrus is a Duluth based aircraft manufacturer whose new surveillance aircraft recently won Federal Aviation Administration approval, according to the Business Journal report. In a press release issued by the company, they state the aircraft “provides special mission customers with the most technologically advanced and cost-effective aircraft available.”

The plane will be making it’s debut at the Airborne Law Enforcement Association Expo in Savannah, Georgia later this week.

The aircraft will be employing technologies from FLIR Systems Inc. as well as UTC Aerospace Systems. It is unclear what systems they may be using but both companies offer video systems which use infrared, long range optics and more.

UTC Aerospace Systems was formed by United Technologies Corporation and was a merger between BFGoodrich and Hamilton Sundstrand. The company created the surveillance and camera platforms utilized by the
U2 spy-plane and currently manufactures camera systems and computer systems for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, colloquially referred to as drones.

Their systems range in power and performance, effecting what altitudes the aircraft can operate through. One of their more advanced platforms offers 30x daylight optical zoom and capabilities such as “autonomous track[ing of] selected objects such as people, cars, trucks or other objects moving in the scene based on image match within a user adjustable target box.” These systems also feature augmented reality layovers similar to the FBI, DHS and other federal aerial surveillance operations. Cloudcap advertisements state “Onboard video enhancements for customizable look and feel (overlays) allows operator to be more efficient and design output for your mission… Battle proven advanced imaging performance gives operators improved situational awareness and superior imagery.”

The SR22 and SR22T aircraft manufactured by Cirrus are set up for easy installation of platforms such as UTC Aerospace System’s Cloud Cap Technology, which features “airborne downlink video display options” allowing aircraft to send live video to analysts on the ground.

UTC Aerospace Systems also offers another camera option which is smaller and compact. The short wave infa-red sensor, or SWIR for short, “enable users to ‘see’ beyond what the naked eye can detect.” SWIR was initially designed for the U2 spy-plane.

FLIR Systems Inc. is the largest commercial company specializing in thermal imaging and is based out of Wilsonville, Oregon. The company offers airborne as well as handheld thermal imaging devices.

Thermal imaging technology has come under much scrutiny due to the invasive nature of the technology. In the 2001 United States Supreme Court case Danny Lee Kyllo v. United States, the court decided that using a FLIR device to monitor the heat from a person in their home was a search and required a warrant.

It is uncertain which of the many FLIR systems created by FLIR Systems Inc. is being utilized on the SR22 and SR22T aircraft. NSP has submitted requests for further information and comment to the Department of Public Safety and the State Patrol. We will update our investigation as new information about the specifics of the on-board equipment, policies, costs and more come to light.

The SR22 is listed as costing $735,900 and the SR22T costs $835,900, according to Cirrus’ website.

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