ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Thursday night, officials from the Georgia State Patrol Aviation Unit ran a training mission to display how their Forward Looking Infra Red technology can be used to track down people.
The unit has had a busy year searching for missing people.
"We have had 122 flights related to missing persons and 107 additional flights were for fugitives," said Sgt. FIrst Class Jeff Rhodes.
Last Friday, Joe Hilton with the Department of Natural Resources was helping search for a missing 8-year-old girl in Colquitt County. He contacted Rhodes with the aviation unit who quickly got in the air. They were able to find the girl using the FLIR technology and lead ground crews to her. It's a routine they have gone through many times over the past 8 years.
"My command staff was fortunate enough to let me work with Jeff and since then we have been on a lot of missions together," Hilton said.
Rhodes says missions are approximately 75 percent successful.
For him and Hilton, being able to use their passion for flight to help the community is refreshing.
"The fun and the excitement is still there," Hilton said. "But I guess to say its better to fly for a purpose so to speak."
As the technology continues to improve year by year, officials say their ability to track down missing individuals and capture escapees will only improve.
The unit is often called in to find hunters who get last in the woods.
12 helicopters are operational throughout the state. 6 of them have FLIR systems installed.