New tool will help Civil Air Patrol missionsIt may seem like a scene from “Predator” but the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol has a new tool to set it apart from the rest of the nation. This is electro-optical-infrared imaging — meaning the state’s CAP can use heat sources as an aide in missions day or night. “I think this will benefit the squadron in Jamestown and everyone else,” said Kevin Iverson, Bismarck CAP squadron commander.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
It may seem like a scene from “Predator” but the North Dakota Civil Air Patrol has a new tool to set it apart from the rest of the nation.
This is electro-optical-infrared imaging — meaning the state’s CAP can use heat sources as an aide in missions day or night.
“I think this will benefit the squadron in Jamestown and everyone else,” said Kevin Iverson, Bismarck CAP squadron commander.
Through the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and a grant from Homeland Security, the North Dakota CAP was able to outfit a plane in Bismarck with state-of-the-art technology that can assist the state and surrounding area in any variety of missions.
The device, which goes by the brand name Flare, as CAP members call it, picks up body heat from 1,000 feet in the air and is also powerful enough to pick up fresh footsteps. While it can’t see through water, it can detect a head popping up for more air.
“It’s basically a telescope that allows us to use it during the day and night,” Iverson said,
North Dakota has been known to have flooding issues in the past and CAP and will use this tool for search and rescue and to record video as a way to better monitor rivers and lakes.
What used to be still photos can now be a steady recording, which gives more information than a still shot, Iverson said.
“This is an incredible tool we have but at the end of the day it’s still a tool,” said Sean Johnson, CAP wing chief of staff in Bismarck, on the importance of volunteers.
The grant became available shortly after Halloween last year and training for the equipment began shortly after Thanksgiving.
“We wanted to make sure we were proficient in it before we told the state we were ready for missions,” Johnson said.
The grant was for roughly $300,000, which included the equipment, installation and calibration.
“Our little flyover state has also kind of been a lead with how Civil Air Patrol has integrated into the state emergency plan,” Johnson said.
In 2009, CAP flew 125 missions with 325 flight hours and took 9,000 photos. Now those photos can be captured as video.
“Ultimately we work as a team to benefit the state of North Dakota,” Johnson said.
Those benefits come in the form of missions that would cost the Air Force a significant amount of more money to perform versus a volunteer organization.
Missions include reconnaissance for flooding, search and rescue and transport of personnel.
For example, to transport somebody using a North Dakota National Guard Blackhawk helicopter would cost roughly $6,000 an hour. Using a CAP single-engine Cessna aircraft costs $100 an hour.
That low cost partly comes from thousands of volunteer hours from flying the plane to searching the ground.
CAP is always looking for volunteers of all ages with an interest in aviation to assist with programs and operations.
“We basically got one of the best leadership development programs you can find anywhere,” Johnson said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com