DERRY TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania State Police are offering a closer look at the technology the agency used in the massive manhunt for escaped inmate
Danelo Cavalcante.

It is called FLIR — Forward Looking Infrared — technology, and police said it is not only game-changing but can be life-saving too.

The FLIR system works through a camera and sensors that sit just below the cockpit of a helicopter.

“This camera will be able to search a wide area fairly quickly and it detects heat,” PSP helicopter pilot Sgt. Brian Kunes said.

Kunes said this technology is vital in a search. Most recently, PSP used it in the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante in Chester County.

“The imagery is spit out in high definition, so it’s pretty easy to tell with what you’re looking at,” Kunes said, explaining that it makes it easy to tell the difference “between the human and something else that’s glowing.”

Pilot Corporal James Erme was also heavily involved in the search.

“I was there from almost day one,” he said.

Erme was flying the night before Cavalcante was caught, possibly spotting the man on the camera.

“There was something we saw, radioed it in,” Erme said.

Kunes said what they saw and believed was Cavalcante was eventually chased off that night, but it did help locate him.

Erme said the heat-sensing technology makes things easier for troopers on the ground, especially in a tough area to search.

“To have ground troopers or units go through those areas would have taken a very long time based on the terrain, the density of the trees, just the terrain itself. We were able to help them and cut that workload down for them,” he said.

Kunes said this is not the only technology they used. He and Erme used a speaker system on the helicopter to play a message from Cavalcante’s mother.

“She’s speaking Portuguese and asked if he would come out of the woods and basically give up,” Kunes said. “He did indeed hear that and actually considered coming out of the woods.”

All of this technology is used not just in manhunts, but for other search efforts, like for hunters who get lost or people dealing with a mental illness. Kunes said the high-tech equipment is what helps them do their job.

“It would make it more challenging if we didn’t have that equipment, substantially more challenging,” he said.

There are some challenges with this technology. The helicopters require frequent maintenance, and pilots are limited to a certain number of hours in the air per day. Weather can also be a factor. Still, police say it is nothing compared to the benefits.