Eyes of the sky: Wisconsin State Patrol watching from above

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email

Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2014 -- 6:33 p.m.

Next time you're driving on the highway, you may want to look up.

"We can see for miles," said Sergeant Ryan Chaffee.

Chaffee, with over a decade of experience with the Wisconsin State Patrol, certainly doesn't spend most of his time in a squad.

He's a trained law enforcement officer, and also a trained pilot.

That comes in handy when the mission is speed enforcement by air.

"The premise is really simple, it's distance over time calculations," Chaffee explained.

"We have white marks painted along the highway, those marks are painted at 660 feet between each one."

They then use a system called "VERSA," which stands for "Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder, to figure out the speed.

"All we do is calculate the amount of time it takes a vehicle to pass between one point and the other," Chaffee said.

The system is built in to the department's Cessna 172, of which they have three. One based in Madison, one in Eau Claire and the other in Green Bay.

While Chaffee is watching from above, troopers like Dustin Johanning sit on the ground and wait for command.

When NBC15 was there, Johanning was one of four troopers stationed on the ground.

"I'll show them where the aircraft is flying up in the sky and then it kind of hits them," Johanning said.

He has been one of the job for about three years, and says it's one he loves.

"Every aspect of the job, always keeping me busy, promoting highway safety," he proudly explained.

Johanning pulled over four cars in a span of a little over an hour with our crew in the car.

The 65mph zone on I-94 pretty much lit up -- one stop after the other -- some going 75mph, some 85mph, and some even faster than that.

While a majority of the stops were speed related, that wasn't the only thing the troopers looked for.

Chaffee said he looks out for things like following too close violations, aggressive driving, cutting in and out of traffic, passing on the shoulder and racing.

A question many may ask: How much does it cost?

Chaffee said it's cheaper than you'd think -- they only burn about six gallons of fuel per hour -- and it's all paid for by a grant.

It is an effective way to catch traffic crooks, literally, from above and beyond.


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