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The idea for VIS came on a boring Thursday night while flying patrol over Southern California. At the time I was full time flight officer assigned to the Air Support Unit. We were flying over down town just after mid night when a grand theft auto just occurred. Dispatch said a Saturn Ion was just stolen from a small car dealer.I instantly thought to myself, Saturn Ion, that's a small suv, we're going to own this guy. We were on scene and overhead in less than thirty seconds. I saw a small car going eastbound, I checked it with my binoculars just in case. It wasn't an suv so I dismissed it. We orbited the area for about a minute. There were no other cars on the road. I started to get frustrated. I saw a patrol unit light up that same small car a half mile to the east. It was the stolen vehicle. A Saturn Ion is a small car, not a small suv. The guy gave up and the call was over.
I couldn't believe I completely messed up the call. I just didn't know what I was looking for. Then again, how many times do street cops not know exactly what a car looks like. Sometimes you might only have thirty seconds to educate yourself about the car to make the difference. As cops do, I thought of a worse case scenario. What if that was a suspect who just shot a cop. I would have completely blown the chance to catch the guy.
That's when the light bulb went off. “There should be a program that you could reference cars in seconds.” I figured someone had already come up with the idea but to my surprise I couldn't find one. I spent the next couple weeks looking into the legal issues, copyrights, and patents. Luckily I had been a business major my first two years of college so I had a little bit of an idea of where to start looking.
I talked to one of our contract pilots Don, about the idea. He was a retired Captain and a small business owner. He motivated me to go all out on the idea. I took his advice and haven't looked back. Two and a half years later VIS has 10 years, 9500 images, and available on numerous platforms.