The Queensland government has announced a number of new upgrades to the state’s aerial policing capabilities, including upgrading and increasing its POLAIR fleet, and welcoming new remotely piloted drones.
Three new Bell 429 helicopters will be welcomed into the Queensland Police Service (QPS) POLAIR fleet, which patrols the state’s south-east, replacing the two older helicopters that have made up the fleet for nearly 10 years.
The agreement also extends Queensland Police’s long-term contract with Surf Life Saving Queensland to operate POLAIR services by a further 10 years to 2034, due to commence once the existing agreement expires in 2024.
The agreement will also deliver Australia’s first Bell 429 training simulator, which initially will be for the exclusive use of QPS POLAIR pilots.
In a joint statement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Police and Corrective Services Mark Ryan said the new aircraft “will deliver vastly improved safety, technology, camera and night vision capability”.
Meanwhile, QPS officers in Townsville and Cairns are preparing to take delivery of a number of new remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS), as part of a trial to explore the operational enhancements that drones can deliver.
The new RPAS have enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and include advancements like artificial intelligence technologies for tracking vehicles and sophisticated thermal imaging cameras for locating lost people.
The Queensland Premier said the new helicopters and drones represented a significant capability increase for police and an added protection for the community, particularly ahead of the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games.
“The community will be able to feel safer knowing police have these new, state-of-the art resources,” Palaszczuk said.
“It also adds a valuable additional level of security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Co-Founder of POLAIR and Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he was very pleased to see the landmark investment in POLAIR.
“From POLAIR’s inception, establishment and humble beginnings over a decade ago, everyone in the community has now been able to share in my vision and see for themselves what a valuable addition it has been to police operations, as I always knew it would be.
“It is humbling to receive the massive backing from government and SLSQ in POLAIR and I thank the government for their long-term investment in police and in turn, community safety.”
Police Minister Ryan said securing three new helicopters under the agreement with Surf Life Saving Queensland gives Queensland certainty through to 2034.
“It also ensures that the Queensland Police Service will have access to the most up to date aerial capabilities by delivering new helicopters.
“The new arrangements will deliver better aerial capability, greater efficiencies, and long-term security to the operations of POLAIR.
“This is a great result for Queensland. Now we know that these critical operations will be maintained at the highest standards all the way through to 2034.”
Surf Life Saving Queensland chief executive officer Dave Whimpey said: “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Queensland Police Service and be their eyes in the sky for the next 10 years.
“Surf Life Saving Queensland’s values align with the Queensland Police Service – we are both here to serve the community and save lives. Our pilots and crew look forward to keeping Queenslanders safe through their work with the POLAIR Service.
“We are a proud Queensland organisation who, like the Queensland Police Service, reinvests into our state and its people.
“We are excited by what the future holds with this partnership.”