Helicopters create a lot of noise, making it easy to detect when one is flying over a house. It is not uncommon for helicopters to fly over residential areas. However, detecting a military helicopter flying overhead may cause a homeowner to worry. So why would military helicopters fly over your house?
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TLDR – The most common reason why military helicopters may fly over residential properties is training. The home is likely in the flight path of the military’s training operations, which typically means that a military base or facility is nearby.
Why Do Helicopters Fly Over My House?
Every major branch of the US military, including the National Guard and the Coast Guard, use helicopters. Some military bases are in remote areas while others are near major residential areas. When completing training operations, the helicopters may fly over residential neighborhoods.
While military helicopters may fly over houses for training, law enforcement helicopters fly over residential properties for a variety of reasons. Police departments in many cities have helicopters that are dispatched to assist officers on the ground.
Law enforcement helicopters are often equipped with thermal imaging equipment and spotlights. The pilots can help increase visibility on the ground and track the movement of suspects during an active crime.
Police may also use helicopters for search and rescue operations and to monitor large public gatherings. In large cities, such as New York City or Los Angeles, the police departments may use helicopters for routine patrols and surveillance operations. However, these activities are less common in smaller cities.
In most cases, police helicopters are dispatched when officers on the ground need assistance. This may include responding to a crime scene or a car accident.
Some police departments use military surplus helicopters, such as the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk or the Bell UH-1 Huey. If a homeowner sees a military helicopter flying overhead, it may be operated by the local police department instead of the military.
Can Police Helicopters See Inside Your House?
Police helicopters rarely fly low enough to see inside people’s homes. The altitude of the helicopter also places the pilots at a steeper angle compared to someone on the ground. However, some law enforcement helicopters are equipped with technologies that let them track movement inside houses.
For example, the police may use thermal image cameras to track people through homes and buildings. Thermal image cameras detect the infrared radiation given off by humans and animals. This can be used to detect movement but does not provide a complete view of the inside of the property.
What Is the Lowest a Helicopter Can Legally Fly?
Helicopters can operate at less than the minimum altitude required for fixed-wing aircraft. While airplanes need to maintain an altitude of 500 feet over land and 1,000 feet over congested areas, helicopters can fly much lower.
The FAA allows helicopters to fly at any altitude if the operation of the helicopter is conducted without any hazard to people or property on the ground. The reason for this exemption is that helicopters can execute pinpoint emergency landings and are much more flexible compared to airplanes.