It seems as if U.S. police officers are taking some tips from Gotham’s Batman. According to CNet, state troopers in Iowa and police in St. Petersberg, Fla., are testing out a new technology called “Starchase” that allows them to fire a GPS tracker from the front of their squad cars that sticks to the rear of a fleeing vehicle. The GPS tracking “bullets” are fired from a compressed air gun, much like the T-shirt cannons used at sporting events, and can be used to track a vehicle remotely.
"If you had told me 16 years ago that I would have a cannon on the front of my car, I wouldn't have believed it,” Iowa state trooper Tim Sieleman told CBS News.
Officers control the GPS tracking bullets from inside the squad car. When the officer presses a button, the grill of the car opens, and the compressed gun fires a sticky GPS bullet directly in front of it. The bullet is supposed to adhere to the back of a retreating car, allowing the officer to track its maneuvers on a computer.
The hope is that the GPS tracking bullets will put an end to dangerous high-speed pursuits. According to ABC News, in 2013 alone, St. Petersburg police have been involved in 13 chases, with four of them ending in crashes. In 2012, there were 26 high-speed chases, 17 of which ended in collisions.
“It’s a new technology that’s come out that’s going to protect a lot of people,” Sgt. Scott Bright, a State Patrol spokesman, told the Des Moines Register. “We don’t want to take somebody’s innocent life because of pursuit.”
Officers hope that by tagging a vehicle with one of the sticky GPS bullets, they can pursue the car more strategically, as well as avoid a high-speed chase. “After they think the officer has disengaged, they back down to normal speeds to blend in with traffic so they don't get noticed again,” Sieleman said.
With many new technologies, there are always a few kinks to work out. Demonstrations showed that only one out of four bullets shot at a parked police car actually stuck. And at $500 a pop, that’s an expensive shot to miss. Also, each mechanism costs about $5,000 to install, and every bullet is good for only one use.
ABC Action News reports on the police GPS tracking bullets in this video uploaded to YouTube.