Helicopter tracks speeding drivers

A police helicopter used to target speeding motorists with an aerial traffic camera has been condemned as a "bizarre" way to spend public money.

Essex County Council says the aircraft is equipped with a "skyshout" public address system that can "warn drivers of a detection".

But the TaxPayers' Alliance said the £2.5 million, £1,000-an-hour Eurocopter EC135 is little more than "a very expensive speed camera".

And a spokesman said road signs warning motorists of a helicopter are "possibly not the best way to encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road".

Essex County Council said: "The signs warn of the possible discovery by the force helicopter equipped with a special Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) device that can read a car number plate from 700 feet, and radar speed detection.

"The helicopter also utilises hi-tech GPS mapping software, thermal imaging and also has a "skyshout" public address system to warn drivers and others on the ground of a detection or pursuit."

Officials said the idea was the brainchild of the Essex Casualty Reduction Board, a body that operates speed cameras and is made up of representatives from local authorities and the police.

Board chairman Norman Hume said the signs were primarily aimed at motorcyclists.

Copyright © PA Business 2008