BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – Bay County Sheriff’s officials updated their infrared technology in March for use on the helicopter.

It’s called forward-looking infrared or FLIR, a thermal imaging infrared camera system.

“It gives us just an incredible ability from a very high altitude both in daytime and nighttime to get an operational picture of what’s going on on the ground,” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

Ford said the system was invaluable as local authorities worked to manage heavy crowds and a shooting in Panama City Beach.

“We used it this past weekend searching for people who were fleeing from us on foot,” Ford said. “We used it at some of the house parties where we got a complaint on a house party and even some that we have intelligence on that were involved in organizing these events.”

FLIR is able to supply information to deputies on the ground about potential problems.

It sends a live video feed to the crime center.

Deputies can access it from their patrol car laptops and cell phones.

They used it at the beach shooting scene, at Pier Park, and at Vibez nightclub on Highway 98 in St. Andrews.

“The connectivity that we have with the field. The ability to communicate that information to deputies and commanders in the field in real-time where they are able to see these things from cameras and know where suspect vehicles are with the license plate readers. We are just very pleased with the advances we have made in technology with Bay County law enforcement,” Ford said.

Deputies also used FLIR during a recent nighttime search for a missing hunter.

It found his heat signature and directed grounds teams to his location.