The Australian state of Queensland will operate its first police helicopter from November with a six-month trial of a Bell 206 Long Ranger.

The helicopter and pilots will be supplied by fast-growing Western Australian company Heliwest, which recently won a series of helicopter contracts from emergency services and the mining and resource sector.

The Bell 206, which will be flown for the Gold Coast City Council to assess its crime-fighting capabilities, will be equipped with a forward-looking infrared camera and Spectrolab Nightsun searchlight.

Pilots and crew will use night-vision goggles (NVG), with Heliwest being one of only three NVG training schools in the country. The Bell 206 will operate for 20h a week on a wide range of police work, including vehicle pursuits and tracking graffiti offenders.

Queensland police minister Neil Roberts said the state government will use the trial to determine whether a helicopter should become a permanent part of the force.

In addition to the Queensland contract, Heliwest recently won a six-year air intelligence contract from Western Australia's Fire and Emergency Services Authority from 1 December, and an emergency services response contract from local power company Western Power, both using Eurocopter BO105s.

Heliwest already has numerous long-term contracts with mining and resources companies in Western Australia, South Australia and Papua New Guinea, and is looking to build its resources business in Queensland from bases in Toowoomba and Mount Isa.

Source: Flight International