Tire Deflation Devices

Law enforcement tech isn’t something that I follow very closely (that is to say, at all), but I came across a piece of equipment that I know about, but to which I”ve never given much thought. So purely in the vein of “that’s kind of neat” let’s talk about tire deflation devices.

Say police are chasing a fleeing suspect by car. One of the fastest ways to stop or slow the car is to pop the suspect’s tires with a strip of spikes that gets manually rolled out across the road in the path of the vehicle. But what about the cars behind the suspects? The officer who deployed the device has to get whatever popped the suspect’s tires out of the way of oncoming traffic – namely the police vehicles in pursuit – without compromising her own safety. She has to pull the strips back quickly, and officers have died while attempting to remove them. Think about coordination of communication between the pursuing officers and the officer running the spike strips. And the stress for the pursuing officer about whether the strips will be off the road in time for them to safely pass.

A company called Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company has released a product called Nighthawk that makes the process safer. The strips are deployed by remote control in less than two seconds, and can be retracted remotely just as quickly. After setting the unit up near the road, the officer can retreat to a safe distance for deployment and retraction.

It’s pretty neat to watch in action:

Technology for the win!

There is another company that has a variation on this called DynaSpike, which Wired covered last year.

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Tire Deflation Devices
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268 thoughts on “Tire Deflation Devices

  1. 1

    How can you not love technology that can be demonstrated in 51 seconds? On the other hand, if I see a black briefcase with a red arrow on the roadside, I am aiming for the briefcase.

  2. 2

    Not bad, but it is clear that the cruiser behind did have to hit his brakes to allow the device to retract. Fine for a staged demonstration but will it work in the heat of the moment? It doesn’t seem like a major improvement over a manually deployed strip and yanking it back with a light line.

    Then there is the cost. One of the biggest problems for law enforcement is funding. Conventional manual spike strips seem, according to a quick look at prices, from $250 to $450. This unit is likely to go for significantly more than $1000.

    It doesn’t stop there. A conventional spike strip can be cleaned up, repacked and reused many times before needing to be replaced. Some common models have service kits available to allow bent or broken spikes to be replaced.

    This unit looks to be using some sort of explosive squib so figure, at the very least, a company representative has to service it before it can reused. Then there are the batteries and the spring-loaded retraction mechanism which will need to be replaced or serviced.

    A lot of the abuses by police cited are the result, at least in part, of a lack of money for training, hiring more qualified officers, screening out unstable officers, regular practice and retraining. Add another $1000 device and there will be even less money to use for training and screening.

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