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Calif. police using powered parachute for searches

From Ripon (Calif.) Police Department

RIPON, Calif. — The Ripon Police Department recently received a Justice Department grant to acquire a powered parachute at no cost to the City. The grant provided $30,000 in equipment and training from the Rural Law Enforcement Technology Center. This is not a new technology, but a new use by law enforcement. There are only six others in the United States used for this purpose, and Ripon is the seventh -- and the only one in California.

The powered parachute will help in searching along the Stanislaus River -- one pilot in the air can do the job of several officers on the ground. Every summer, the Department receives several calls to find lost and missing rafters along the river. They will be able to cover a large area in just a few minutes. In town, Officers will be able to see an entire neighborhood rather than just one street when searching for missing children.

Photo courtesy of Ripon (CA) Police Department
Photo courtesy of Ripon (CA) Police Department

The aircraft can take off in less than 100 feet. It can fly at 35 mph in calm weather, and at about 13 mph with head wind. It has a 10-gallon capacity gas tank

Sgt. Merchant and Lt. Ormonde volunteered to get pilot training, and are now certified to fly the powered parachute. The air machine weighs just over 400 pounds and can carry both officers. The big advantage is that it costs about 30 dollars an hour to fly, which includes fuel and maintenance. That compares to up to $1,500 dollars an hour for a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. The powered parachute is stored in a trailer and can be deployed in 15 minutes once it arrives at a scene. In an emergency, the pilots can use several of our city parks and elementary schools for take-off.

The Ripon Department is looking at getting PA system and camera so dispatchers can see what is being seeing from the air. The aircraft will be an observation platform. They will also be able to locate marijuana activity in and around the city of Ripon.

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