Criminals may be used to looking over their shoulders for police, but a new crime-fighting tool introduced in Florida means they will now also be looking above their heads.
Officers in the town of Palm Bay are being sent aloft on motorized paragliders to act as spies in the sky, in a first-of-its-kind mission code named Operation Soar.
Suspended beneath parachutes wearing lawnmower-style motors on their backs, they will patrol the skies looking for burglars, car thieves and missing children, equipped with radios, cameras and GPS navigation systems.
The seats of their unconventional aircraft have been specially bulletproofed and the officers have standby parachutes, to protect against criminals who may be tempted to use them for target practice.
The paraglider patrol idea was hatched after hopes of launching unmanned drones to conduct aerial surveillance over Palm Bay were shot down by the Federal Aviation Administration, due to safety fears.
"Our agency is pretty innovative, we like to think out of the box and experiment with new ideas. The more we fly these paragliders, the more uses we'll find for them," said Lieutenant Joe Eakins.
The $25,000 gas-powered machines, purchased using proceeds from the sale of criminal assets, can fly at speeds up to 63mph and at altitudes anywhere between two inches off the ground and 18,000ft.