‘Sky Squad’ tackles crime

22 February 2022

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced new ‘eyes in the sky’ to help police fight crime.

Three new state of the art Bell 429 helicopters will become part of the POLAIR fleet to patrol the south-east, replacing the existing two helicopters which have reliably served the Queensland community for almost a decade.

In addition, the Palaszczuk Government will invest nearly a million dollars to deliver the highest-standard specialised remotely piloted aircraft for use in Townsville and Cairns.

The Premier said the new helicopters and drones represented a significant capability increase for police and an added protection for the community.

“The community will be able to feel safer knowing police have these new, state-of-the art resources,” the Premier said.

“It also adds a valuable additional level of security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Having three helicopters rather than two helicopters will mean increased operational capacity for police.

In addition, the new aircraft will deliver vastly improved safety, technology, camera and night vision capability.

The new arrangement will also deliver Australia’s first Bell 429 training simulator, which initially will be for the exclusive use of QPS POLAIR pilots.

Supplementing training requirements with time in the simulator means reduced time training in the aircraft – saving operating costs and freeing up the helicopters to fly more missions.

Townsville and Cairns police will take delivery of new remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) as part of a trial exploring the operational enhancements that this state-of-the-art technology can deliver. 

The new RPAS will have enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and include advancements like artificial intelligence technologies for tracking vehicles and sophisticated thermal imaging cameras for locating lost people.

Police Minister Mark Ryan said the new helicopters were part of a new long-term contract with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) to operate vital POLAIR aerial capabilities through to 2034.

“The new arrangement, which begins at the conclusion of the current contract with SLSQ in 2024, means long-term security for the operation of the helicopters that play a critical role in supporting the efforts of police on the ground to keep the community safe,” he said.

“It also ensures that the Queensland Police Service will have access to the most up to date aerial capabilities by delivering new helicopters.

“The new arrangements will deliver better aerial capability, greater efficiencies, and long-term security to the operations of POLAIR.

“This is a great result for Queensland.

“Now we know that these critical operations will be maintained at the highest standards all the way through to 2034.”

Co-Founder of POLAIR and Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers said he was very pleased to see the landmark investment in POLAIR.

“From POLAIR’s inception, establishment and humble beginnings over a decade ago, everyone in the community has now been able to share in my vision and see for themselves what a valuable addition it has been to police operations, as I always knew it would be.

“It is humbling to receive the massive backing from government and SLSQ in POLAIR and I thank the government for their long term investment in police and in turn, community safety.”

Minister Ryan said Surf Life Saving Queensland had demonstrated very clearly in recent years their capacity to operate POLAIR in a way that dramatically enhances the efforts of police on the ground.

Surf Life Saving Queensland Chief Executive Officer, Dave Whimpey said; “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Queensland Police Service and be their eyes in the sky for the next 10 years.

“Surf Life Saving Queensland’s values align with the Queensland Police Service – we are both here to serve the community and save lives. Our pilots and crew look forward to keeping Queenslanders safe through their work with the POLAIR Service.

“We are a proud Queensland organisation who, like the Queensland Police Service, reinvests into our State and its people.

“We are excited by what the future holds with this partnership.”

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the new deal represented a great outcome for the Queensland Police Service and the community.

“POLAIR is so important to our work.

“Eyes in the sky greatly enhance the work police do on the ground in a number of scenarios.

“Now we have certainty through to 2034 and in addition to that we will also have access to the latest aircraft, so I think this is a fantastic result.”