General Question

andrew's avatar

Are the spotlights on helicopters controlled manually or via computer?

Asked by andrew (16375points) April 30th, 2009

Since I live in LA, I have the great privilege of watching helicopters circle at night. As they circle, though, the spotlight stays in (more or less) exactly the same place. Is this compensated by computer or just an adept spotlight controller? Is the person controlling the spotlight different from the pilot?

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8 Answers

MrKnowItAll's avatar

They are gyro-stabilized, manually controlled

Lightlyseared's avatar

By a spotter not the pilot (he has his hands full as it is I imagine)

richardhenry's avatar

I’d have so much fun playing with one of those lights. Or a helicopter, for that matter.

andrew's avatar

@MrKnowItAll So as the pilot circles, the spotter compensates?

MrKnowItAll's avatar

It depends upon the sophistication of the camera/spotlight platform. If you were following a car, the car can be placed in crosshairs, and the system will lock on and track the car. (as well as launch a Hellfire Missile)

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

A helicopter pilot has both hands and both feet engaged with the controls. If the spotlight control is done manually, it’s being done by an observer.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

The pilot also has to keep his head up and about to maintain situational awareness. Trees, tall buildings, power lines and such all offer hazards to a low-flying helicopter. So in order to be effective at all, you need to have an observer on board to handle the actual search and tracking of suspects.

Here is a video I found off-hand just now. It would appear San Diego Police have FLIR, so night tracking can be done without spotlights.

(WARNING: video contains a fatility)

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