MADISON — Eyes in the sky have been busy for the Wisconsin State Patrol.
The State Patrol has three specially-equipped Cessna Skyhawk planes that act as airborne traffic spotters, relaying information to ground-based troopers who then can make traffic stops.
The aerial enforcement started in August and will end in October, but missions also are planned in 2013.
The 79 missions flown by the three aircraft in August and September resulted in 2,197 traffic stops, with 1,324 speeding tickets issued out of 1,662 total citations issued.
More than 1,200 warnings were given out by troopers as well.
"Aerial enforcement is a valuable traffic safety enforcement tool," said Major Sandra Huxtable of the State Patrol in a news release. "From the air, our pilots can identify traffic violations as they happen over an extended distance and expanse of roadways."
The Air Support Unit has five licensed pilots, all members of the State Patrol, including three sergeants, one trooper and one inspector.
The planes are based at Madison, Oshkosh and Eau Claire, giving statewide coverage from the air.
The planes have VASCAR, which is a Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder, a device that can determine a vehicle's speed from the air.
The unit also is set up for search and rescue missions, with each plane equipped with thermal imaging devices to help find lost or missing people in rugged terrain.
Of the 79 missions flown so far, 71 were supported by federal funding. Sixty-eight of the missions were planned during high-traffic volume in late summer, which tend to be the higher traffic fatality months.
The goal of the enforcement is to improve traffic safety and save lives and injuries, Huxtable said.
"Speeding is prevalent and deadly in Wisconsin," Huxtable said. "Despite the obvious dangers of speeding, it is by far the most common traffic conviction in Wisconsin. Obeying speed limits will help make progress toward the goal of zero preventable traffic deaths in Wisconsin."