PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - One local police department is helping keep you safe by using an airplane. The department has used the technology for decades, but many of us have no idea from the ground.
We took a ride with the Palm Springs Aero Squadron to give you an inside look at how they're patrolling the streets from the sky.
While in the air, a police car sped into the parking lot of a convenience store and officers took the armed man down, arresting him for using a knife to threaten people. Police found the suspect thanks to some help from the eye in the sky.
"You really get a unique perspective from above. You can see facets that officers can't see from the ground," said Shawn Flinn, Palm Springs police detective and pilot with the aero squadron.
Flinn took us 2,000 feet in the air to show us what it looks like to be part of the department's aero squadron.
"The purpose of the aero squadron is to provide air support to the Palm Springs Police Department and to officers in the surrounding areas," said Flinn.
When called upon, Flinn preps the squadron's 1972 Cessna - specially outfitted for police work- then takes off to provide aerial assistance. Flinn said the calls can range from spotting lost hikers to giving directions to break up a drug trafficking ring in the middle of the desert.
The squadron became an official part of the department in 1965 with a small amount of money from the City.
"They fund approximately $7,000 a year out of the budget, and that goes towards the annual maintenance that's required on a plane and the fuel," said Flinn.
Additional money for equipment and fuel comes from the membership dues of 12 dedicated volunteers. Many of the volunteers, like Benjamin French, work as full-time pilots for airlines. The squadron gives them a unique opportunity to use their skills to protect the community they live in.
"It's kind of like giving back a little bit, but for me it's just enjoyable and I find the police work to be quite exciting," said French.
On a normal flight, a police officer will sit in the back in order to get a better view of what's on the ground. In fact, the chair's especially designed to turn 180 degrees to give officers the best view possible.
Now the squadron wants to expand its flight map to the entire valley, offering assistance to other police departments.
The Palm Springs Aero Squadron is one of only a handful in the entire nation. For that reason, its pilots are always willing to take flight.