Summit Aviation is planning to take crime fighting to new heights from a launching point in the Middletown area.

Summit Aviation is planning to take crime fighting to new heights from a launching point in the Middletown area.

The 53-year-old company, which owns and operates Summit Airport off Del. Route 896, took off in a new direction last month when it began marketing its new Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform directly to law enforcement agencies.

"We've done completions and modifications before, but offering a whole platform as a turnkey solution for law enforcement is a new thought and theory for us," general manager Ralph Kunz said last week. "We think this is a great, low-cost tool that will help police departments catch bad guy and make the public safer."

The ISR platform is an Australian-built Mahindra Aerospace GippsAero GA8 Astrovan that Summit Aviation modifies with customizable hardware and software packages to provide domestic law enforcement agencies with the types of surveillance capabilities previously available only to military agencies.

"These systems were initially developed to help the military locate [improvised explosive devices] in urban environments like Iraq and Afganistan," explained Joe Otto, a consultant for Summit Aviation who helped design the ISR platform. "But what they found was that they were just as good at detecting the types of patterns of life movements that make it possible to find the guys making the bombs, as well."

Using its long-standing expertise in working with the U.S. Department of Defense, Summit Aviation is now able to provide law enforcement agencies with comparable technology in a cost-efficient package, regional sales manager John Bonnell said.

"For the most part, police departments don't have the proper tools for doing that kind of work and until recently it was very expensive to acquire," he said. "This platform allows those same agencies to acquire those capabilities with customizable features that allow them to stay within their budget constraints."

Starting at about $890,000 and ranging up to $3.3 million for the full suite of available modifications, the ISR platform is capable of carrying an electro-optical/infrared camera system that includes six, 16-megapixel cameras that can create a three-dimensional, scalable and geo-referenced map of an area several miles wide in just a few hours, Otto said.

"It also provides data in real time, so you could use it for everything from monitoring ships in a port to watching activity at a suspected drug house," he said.

The platform also can detect changes over time and alert the operator to those differences

"For instance, it could find a new path through a cornfield during the search for a missing child," Otto said. "Or it could be used to map the damage created by a hurricane in a single flyover that otherwise would take dozens of people days or weeks to record."

Bonnell said the ISR platform also provides those capabilities at costs far lower than what law enforcement agencies would spend using helicopters for similar mission.

"When it comes to getting people from crash sites to the hospital, there is nothing better for that job than a helicopter," he said. "But when it comes to surveillance and reconnaissance, this platform is much harder to detect and has a cost about one-tenth of a helicopter per flight hour."

Operating the ISR platform also requires only a single pilot and anywhere from one to five equipment operators, depending on the equipment being used.

"The platform is designed to be customizable, like ordering a car," Bonnell said. "The customer can choose from all the options and we put together their package."

Summit Aviation has already sold its ISR platform to a law enforcement agency in the Northeast since unveiling the aircraft at the Airborne Law Enforcement Association trade show in Orlando, Fla. last month.

"We've had a lot of interest and we expect to have some additional contracts very soon," Kunz said. "We think this a big step forward for us and a great thing to have happen right here in the Middletown area."