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APD: New Chopper Gear Could Help Fight Wildfires (Update)

Christopher Ebdon/Flickr

Update: The Austin City Council has approved a $1.17 million contract with Metro Aviation to outfit APD's new chopper.

The council had already approved the purchase of a new helicopter, but this morning the council approved a proposal to equip the chopper with accessories, including firefighting equipment. You can read more below. 

Original Post (March 19): A new helicopter for Austin Police could be equipped with thermal imaging, a search-light, night vision goggles, water buckets and other accessories, if council gives the green light to spend the cash.

The million dollar expenditure is part of the original budget for the AmericanEurocopter A350. But APD chief of staff David Carter told council today that the equipment could also be used to fight wildfires.

"The thermal imager, which a lot of people see on the police TV shows and stuff catching the bad guys at night running around and stuff, that is actually critical in terms of spotting fire occurring on the ground that may not be readily visible during the day," Carter said. 

But the helicopter’s primary day-to-day operation would still be for police operations. Council will vote on the helicopter accessories Thursday. APD hopes to have the aircraft ready for the summer. 

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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