For a few minutes Thursday, Chris Posey was hovering in mid-air.
At least that’s how it looked to him. The Oxford, Ala., police pilot was strapped into a jetpack simulator at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, rocking back and forth in front of onlookers as he navigated the virtual world shown in his goggles.
The personal jetpack, designed by a New Zealand company, was one of many items on display Thursday during the annual Airborne Law Enforcement Association conference. Posey, the chief pilot for his department’s aviation unit, said he didn’t think the jetpack had much immediate practicality for police. But he thought it was pretty cool.
“I want one for Christmas,” he said.
This week marks the 46th year the conference has been held. Here, it’s hosted by the Savannah-Chatham police department’s aviation unit, which flies the yellow helicopters also used by Mosquito Control.
“Whenever I see our guys in bright yellow helicopters flying overhead, my hair still stands up on my neck,” Chatham County Manager Lee Smith said, welcoming the attendees to the conference and thanking airborne police for their service.
The conference, which is ongoing through Saturday, has 55 hours of education available for law enforcement personnel. On hand are helicopters from the Georgia State Patrol and Gwinnett County Police Department, among other agencies. Also featured are flight simulators for other helicopters, gear and drones.
Los Angeles police Sgt. Steve Roussell, president of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, said the use of drones will be important in the future as only about 400 police departments in the country can afford full-fledged aviation units.
“Unmanned aerial systems allow the opportunity for smaller agencies to have some airborne assets,” Roussell said. “I believe the future of airborne law enforcement is going to be with unmanned aerial systems.”