Spot the criminal

A new material developed by QinetiQ may allow police to distinguish between pursuit cars and offenders during chases at night and in bad weather.


A new material developed by QinetiQ is undergoing trials by two constabularies which, if successful, will allow police to distinguish between pursuit cars and offenders during chases at night and in bad weather.


The patented material called Mirage is undergoing six-month trails with Cambridgeshire and Hampshire Constabularies.


The material allows the roof markings on vehicles to be read with a thermal-imaging camera. This enables air support police, co-ordinating chases in helicopters and aircraft, to distinguished between pursuers and the pursued.


Mirage solves this problem by enabling roof markings on vehicles to be read with a thermal imaging camera, and assists with the crucial law enforcement requirement of accurately reporting – for both incident management and legal reasons – every action taken by the police in pursuit situations.


Mirage appears ‘cold’ to thermal imaging equipment because it reflects the sky (which is typically several degrees colder than the earth) whereas letters appear ‘warm’, giving the same high-contrast lettering at night as seen by day.


“It’s akin to writing on a mirror,” says QinetiQ project manager, Dr. Andrew Loveridge. “The warm letters stand out clearly against the reflection of the cold sky. The effect is so distinctive that the observer’s eye is drawn to the marked vehicle, even from a considerable distance away.”


Tony Yeldham, head of air support operations at Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said, “In the midst of complex operations, often involving many different police vehicles, high quality information and communications are vitally important. Mirage gives police an important edge in their ability to monitor, understand and interpret pursuit operations.”