Back in the day (1983), there was a movie Blue Thunder, about military surveillance tech on a helicopter, turned towards the civilian sector. (It spawned a couple of TV series: Blue Thunder and Airwolf.)
It also involved a lot of shoot-things-up hardware, but that’s hopefully besides the point.
Here in Northern Greater Toronto, living between two local parks, I do get a chance to observe York Region police helicopters as they cruise the local parks on weekends, on nights with perfect flying weather. One thing that struck me one night when a helicopter was doing an orbit of a local park is that those things have advanced low-noise tech. Rather than a house-rattling old school WAP-WAP-WAP, it was a hushed wuff-wuff-wuff. I was in awe of the engineering that must have required. Of course, police conducting operations without waking the neighborhood is a good thing, right?
And then there’s the FLIR night vision camera system. Here’s the footage as they close in on some 16-year-old candy thieves at an amusement park:
Pretty amazing footage eh? It seems to be a high quality passive IR system, although I expect that they have some kind of IR illuminators if they need them. In this case, the crime had been reported by the park security, and they had probable cause to switch on the IR gear and search. But what are their rules for scanning and recording? I suspect that it’s on when they scan the local parks for teenagers getting up to no good on a Saturday night. Do they switch it off when they fly over the houses between parks? Doubt it. Is that some kind of search that butts heads with constitutional limits? Probably hell yes.
Just saying. (No, I have no idea if they are black helicopters.)