BPD presentation about ‘spy plane’ pilot program moves online

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The surveillance plane’s two “orbit areas” over Baltimore during its first test run in 2016. Photo via Police Foundation/BPD.

The Baltimore Police Department will host an online presentation about its “Aerial Investigation Research” (AIR) pilot program, also known locally as the “spy plane,” on March 23 after postponing in-person presentations about the program earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

BPD was originally scheduled to hold presentations on March 16 and March 19 to educate the community about the AIR pilot program, but postponed those last week due to concerns related to COVID-19.

The online presentation will be livestreamed on the Baltimore Police Department Facebook page from 7-9 p.m. on March 23.

Community members can email their questions and concerns to [email protected] or share their questions in the comment section during the live presentation itself.

The plane will collect aerial footage of Baltimore City during a trial period of 120-180 days, starting in May, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said when he announced in December that he had approved the pilot program.

Police will use that footage to investigate past murders, non-fatal shootings, armed robberies and carjackings during the test period, Harrison said.

In 2016, Persistent Surveillance Systems filmed the streets of Baltimore from above as they flew in a Cessna for 300 hours.

An article from Bloomberg Businessweek revealed the plane’s surveillance operations and the fact that Persistent Surveillance’s founder, Ross McNutt, received money to carry out the operation from Texas-based philanthropists Laura and John Arnold.

After the plane was grounded, McNutt later returned to pitch the idea of bringing the plane back once again.

Marcus Dieterle


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