Helicopter Surveillance?

Posted: January 10th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian

I went out today to shovel the walk and driveway.  While we were out there, we also took our daughter on her new sled, pulling her around the yard.  During that time, an (obvious) military helicopter was flying overhead.  At first, I didn’t pay much attention since we live fairly near the interstate and a major set of Union Pacific tracks and there is a Minuteman base about 7-10 miles South of us.  So military vehicles and helicopters are fairly common.

Usually, though, they just fly or drive by and keep on going.  This time, the helicopter was making (once I started paying attention) an obvious grid over our little town.  So I began observing it more closely and took some photos – camera was handy because of the family moment anyway.

I don’t have a good zoom lens and realize now that I still have the camera set to a lower resolution (1024×768), so these photos aren’t as great as they could be had I been carrying better equipment.  Regardless, they’re clear enough for me to make some points.

First, the helicopter looks a lot like a Bell Huey, but isn’t quite right to be one, so it’s similar, but not the same.  It’s painted entirely OD green with no markings on the bottom and I couldn’t clearly make out any on the sides either.  There was a tail number, but I couldn’t read it.  They were flying at an altitude of around 1,000 feet or so, maybe a little lower, but not much.  I’m estimating the range based on shooting experience, but with nothing to compare it to for estimation and not knowing the exact size of the aircraft, this is all just a good guess.  Not to mention I don’t generally aim straight up in the air when shooting. :)

Anyway, the following were taken using 4x zoom on my little camera.  The first is the helicopter as it began another pass, almost directly overhead:

(click to enlarge)

You can clearly see the aircraft’s belly light, twin rotor, and almost make out what got me interested in this helicopter to start with.  Directly behind the light is a black, round spot.  This next photo shows it more clearly:

(click to enlarge)

That black spot, in my mind, can be two things: the hole for a hoist, such as those used in rescue operations or a camera (or similar) unit.

As said before, the helicopter is not clearly marked as military, but is colored as if it were and I have seen similar choppers flying over (usually Blackhawks) with the same colors on them.  Near us is the Cheyenne Air National Guard base, at least one Minuteman missile silo, and three major routes of transportation as well as the Nebraska state border.  All of that is within 50 or so miles of our home.

I personally don’t think that I was their specific target, since the town is so small that the helicopter could fly over our house and the entire town in less than a minute.  While I use the term “grid pattern,” that’s a generality.  The flight path was more of a football-shaped arched grid than it was a straight line grid.  Those familiar with how helicopter searches are undertaken will realize that this is the reality of how the “grid” looks if the aircraft were drawing lines in the air as it flies.

At any rate, I have no idea what this was all about.  Just thought it curious enough that I thought I’d post it here.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dark Politricks RT and Aaron Turpen. Aaron Turpen said: New post: Helicopter Surveillance? (http://militantlibertarian.org/?p=14230) http://militantlibertarian.org/?p=14230 […]

  2. Militant Libertarian says:

    I have received a handful of explanations for what this could have been. Since there is a fair amount of oil prospecting and road infrastructure work going on in this county, these may be right.

    Two people now have offered that it was a surveying/map-drawing setup in which the helicopter flew over in a grid to take photographs that are pulled together to create precise maps. Given that the helicopter was not clearly military (no visible military markings that I could see), this may be possible.

    Another suggestion was that it is a FLIR or radar camera taking photos of homes to snoop for drug dealers or the like. That’s also possible, but highly unlikely given the rural area this is. There are pot smokers in town and they might have a couple of plants or something, but I highly doubt there are any large-scale dopers here. Besides, our cops don’t have the budget for a helicopter – not even in Cheyenne.

    One more option I hadn’t thought of until now was that it could also be surveying and/or “sniffing” for the natural gas repairs and new piping they’ve been installing throughout town. This is another possibility, though they’re about halfway through the work, so it would seem odd to do it now.

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