In July 2009, the Ripon Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in California to implement a designated aviation unit using a Powered Parachute (PPC). Long recognized as a technology leader in small and rural policing, the department was selected to participate in an aviation test and evaluation project, sponsored by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), known as the Aviation Technology Program (ATP).
Designed to be extremely economical, the PPC costs approximately $40 an hour to operate including fuel, maintenance, insurance, and additional costs. The aircraft does not need a traditional runway, and there is no need for a traditional aircraft hangar. The aircraft can be towed to a desired for deployment and flight by one officer/pilot. A second Officer can be added onboard to act as a tactical flight officer. The PPC is commonly regarded as one of the safest forms of flight.
Ripon pilots are licensed sport pilots, with powered parachute ratings. The aircraft is equipped with aviation and police radios, GPS and onboard computer systems. Pilots utilize iPhone technology, and digital video/photographic equipment while on board the aircraft.
The Ripon Aviation Unit has been tasked with missions supporting local, county, state, and federal agencies. The Ripon Aviation Unit has completed a variety of law enforcement missions including: missing person cases, river search/rescue, suspect captures, crime scene location, aerial crime scene photography, major event security over-flights, gang/graffiti suppression, burglary suppression, auto theft suppression, critical infrastructure over-flights, narcotics investigations, homicide investigations, traffic fatality investigations, and patrol support missions.
The aircraft has the ability to obtain high quality, digital images from above crime scenes, at a low cost. Ripons aviation unit continues to educate local students about emerging law enforcement aviation technology, and has been able to provide important data through the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center to the DOJ, Office of Justice Programs, and the National Institute of Justice. The unit said that the Small, Rural, Tribal and Border Center (SRTBRC) has been instrumental in its success. The aircraft, on-board equipment, trailer and pilot training were provided to the department at no cost.
Ripon’s Aviation Unit has proven the concept that small and rural Law Enforcement agencies can implement and maintain an aviation unit on a tight budget. Small and rural law enforcement agencies now have the ability to safely, quickly, and economically, provide their front line officers and command staff with mission critical information that can immediately be used to help ensure the safety of their citizens.