National Police Air Service (NPAS)

What We Do

Search for missing people

The helicopter is often involved in searching for people who are missing, vulnerable or at risk. It is able to cover a large area, helping to assist units on the ground. The helicopter’s thermal imaging camera is a valuable tool that can be used to locate people very quickly by their body heat which in some circumstances means the difference between life and death.

Critical incidents

Operational follows and vehicle pursuit

If a vehicle fails to stop for police, the helicopter is usually requested to attend in order to minimise any risk to members of the public and police officers. The aircraft’s crew will give a full commentary on the incident and progress of the vehicle so that experienced traffic officers can intercept the vehicle and bring the pursuit to a safe conclusion. The video footage taken from the helicopter forms part of the evidence used to bring offenders to justice.

Tracking and locating suspects

Whether it is searching for a robbery suspect, burglar, car thief or other suspect, the helicopter can search large areas quickly and direct ground resources accordingly. This can be especially useful in large rural areas where a systematic ground search would be impossible. If an offender is located either visually or by thermal image camera, ground resources will usually be directed to apprehend, although in some cases the helicopter will land and deploy the crew to arrest directly if circumstances warrant it.

Public order

During large scale public order events the aircraft becomes a very valuable asset for the ground commander. By using the onboard camera system and the video downlink capability the aircraft can ‘beam back’ to the incident room real time images enabling the commander to make informed decisions on the deployment of Public Order Officers.

High profile patrols

A priority of NPAS is the reduction of crime. NPAS support forces at a local level supporting operations to target particular areas with high visibility patrols. NPAS work to support these initiatives, by flying or patrolling for periods of time over a prescribed area and at lower levels than normal, being overt in their presence. Whilst patrolling these specific areas the aircraft is often requested to assist with other local incidents, to which they are able to quickly redeploy.


‘Casevac’ is the abbreviated term used for when the helicopter is used to transfer people to hospital by air in life threatening circumstances (casualty evacuation). The use of the police helicopter in this role has saved many lives, particularly at night time when the air ambulance doesn't operate. Paramedics are able to fly with the unit to treat patients en route to hospital. The aircraft has been, and continues to be used in this life-saving role regularly.

National response to counter terrorism

Photographic tasks

Each aircraft carries a variety of handheld still digital cameras, enabling us to taken detailed high resolution digital images. Most images obtained are used for evidential purposes e.g. the scenes of Fatal RTC’s. Some however are used to assist officers in the planning and execution of specific operations.

Crime reduction and hotspot policing

As above

VIP escorts and security duties

Transportation of personnel and equipment

The ability to rapidly reconfigure the aircraft allows the force to mobilise specialist officers and equipment quickly, if necessary from one side of the county to another, without the need for them to negotiate their way through heavy traffic, a very useful attribute during our very busy summer holiday period.

Command and control

Situational awareness

Live video stream

In order that Central Control Command and various other locations and agencies, such as the fire brigade, can view the pictures transmitted by the aircraft a retractable aerial is fitted to the left hand skid. These pictures are transmitted in a digital format that is encoded to prevent interception of the pictures. The pictures can be received and decoded by both mobile and fixed receivers in vehicles or Control Centres.


For non-emergencies dial 101
In an emergency always dial 999