State Patrol unveils airplane used to track aggressive drivers

- The Minnesota State Patrol has a brand new way of tracking and stopping aggressive drivers. And in this case, you’ll never see them coming.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the new surveillance airplane, State Patrol Captain Jim Englin gave Fox 9’s Tim Blotz a ride.

“In the end, it’s going to save more lives than what any of us could imagine, I believe,” Englin said.

Used for scouting out aggressive and reckless drivers, the plane is equipped with a high tech camera and software that allows the flight technical officer to track cars from thousands of feet in the air.

“We can get that guy weaving in and out of traffic, running the people off the road,” Englin said. “We can also get an idea of their speed." 

However, the plane doesn’t just track aggressive driving; it’s also a search and rescue platform.

Two weeks ago, two canoeists disappeared in the Boundary Waters, and the State Patrol plane's camera - with high-tech infrared sensors - went to work.

"The pilot was actually looking in front of the wing, and he spotted what he thought was a light and then directed me to it,” said technical flight officer Shawn Barta. “Then, using the blended mode, I could find that light, and then you could actually see that person standing there with the flashlight."

Using the plane's pinpoint GPS, a helicopter rescued the pair within minutes.

"It was a fantastic operation, and it worked exactly like we wanted it to," Englin said.

But, the main function of the plane is still to crack down on aggressive drivers.

"You can’t get away with that stuff. We’re going get to you, and we're going to take appropriate action when we have to," Englin said. 

The plane was made in Duluth by Minnesotans and compared to helicopters, it’s significantly cheaper to fly.

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