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CPD's next big thing could be a gyrocopter

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This gyrocopter could be helping patrol the skies of Columbia soon. This gyrocopter could be helping patrol the skies of Columbia soon.
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

When you hear the term gyrocopter, your mind might go to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. That's not the case for Columbia Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago.

"We don't see it that way," said Santiago. "This is a very sophisticated, very high-tech piece of technology when it comes to the implementation of crime prevention." 

Santiago wants one -- a Cavalon autogyro. It's a cross between plane and helicopter at a fraction of the cost. It can be outfitted with spotlights, infrared night vision cameras, and take off and land with just 100 feet of space.

"This is a piece of equipment that costs us the same as two police cars and two officers, and you're talking about covering an area way more efficiently and effectively than a police car could from a bird's eye view," said Santiago.

Santiago says he's seen one used by a department in Texas and says as Columbia grows, so does the department's need for some kind of presence in the air.

The Cavalon would cost around $100,000, paid for, Santiago says, by seizure money and law enforcement grants.

The department already has two pilots on staff who could be trained to fly it in 12 hours.

"On our stats, the only area that we're up in is auto break-ins," said Santiago. "To have an eye in the sky to look at parking lots and parking areas, specifically during special events and nighttime operations, it's going to go a long way."

Santiago says he's still working out the financials, but says city hall is behind him.

He says it's possible CPD could be airborne by the end of the year.

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