KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For decades, law enforcement agencies across the metro have had eyes in the sky.
Now, the Missouri State Highway Patrol's helicopter has new crime-fighting tools.
A state-of-the-art forward-looking infrared camera, combined with a sophisticated mapping system, makes it nearly impossible to run from the law.
"We can actually tell them where that vehicle is going, simply by looking at one screen now, instead of trying to look at a separate map to identify which roads,” Sgt. Dustin Metzner, a pilot with the Aircraft Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said.
The system pulls addresses, intersections, even business names and overlays them on video transmitting from the camera.
Learn more about the camera and mapping system in the video below:
On a recent Saturday, MSHP conducted an operation near the Grandview Triangle searching for motorcyclists who are fast and furious.
In one case, a pack of four motorcyclists divided into pairs to elude police.
They weaved in and out of traffic to lose the officers on the ground.
One man's ride was short after he slammed into the back of KCPD cruiser.
Metzner stayed with the other biker who went off-roading into a south Kansas City golf course.
As the biker careened across the course, Metzner and his pilot tracked him from 2,000 feet in the air.
Eventually, the rider ditched his motorcycle.
Using the camera and mapping system, Metzner pinpointed the biker and guided troopers on the ground to him.
COSTS (Source: MSHP)
The cost of the camera was $500,233.46.
They received funding from a Port Authority Grant in the amount of $421,637.00.
The MSHP matched the remaining $78,596.46 with Highway Funds.
The cost for the mapping system was $128,710.40.
This purchase was funded entirely from a Highway Safety Grant, so no MSHP funding was necessary.
The helicopter, N39MP, is the only aircraft in MSHP's fleet equipped with the technology, however, it's on standby for any operation in the state.
In February 2017, it helped find a missing fisherman during an extensive search at Truman Lake on a cold day.
— MSHP General HQ (@MSHPTrooperGHQ) February 27, 2017
The technology was also used the following month to rescue a lost woman with her dog in a heavily wooded area in southeast Missouri.
— MSHP General HQ (@MSHPTrooperGHQ) March 3, 2017
But pursuits are one of the main uses for the hi-tech equipment.
KCPD told 41 Action News all three helicopters in their aviation unit utilize the same type of equipment.
They also use a high-intensity searchlight to assist ground officers at night, a KCPD spokesperson said.
On the other side of the state line, the Kansas Highway Patrol helicopter also has the same technology.
According to Trooper Candice Breshears, the forward-looking infrared camera was installed in 2005 when the KHP helicopter was new. The mapping system was installed in 2011. Breshears said the camera cost $200,000 and the mapping system cost $75,000. Both were paid for through asset forfeiture.
Back in the air with Metzner, he tracked another biker who had violated the law all the way home.
The biker even put his motorcycles in the garage thinking he got away until officers showed up at his front door.
A lesson that there's now a smart and sharper eye in the sky.