@mpsinthesky

Breathtaking shots, captured in the line of duty.

London's Metropolitan Police Service operates three EC145 helicopters in its air support unit. On January 3, 2012, the unit joined Twitter.

Since then, the ASU has amassed nearly 80,000 followers and tweeted some spectacular aerial shots of London, such as this one of Canary Wharf, a financial district, on a foggy day. It went viral.

Pilots take photos on their smartphones while shuttling between calls, and tweet them from the same devices.

There is an Instagram account too. But naturally, the Met, as the police force is known, doesn't put pilots in the sky just to take nice pictures. The police helicopters' main jobs include helping find suspects, ferrying police dogs around, pursuing vehicles, and more. Jobs they take seriously, with the occasional dash of humor:

So why did the Met feel the need to put its helicopters on Twitter? Part of its public outreach. The Met wanted Londoners to know that the helicopter overhead was a police helicopter, and why it's there. Most tweets don't have photos but are simple and fact-based like this one:

But it's also to get people to stop complaining about the racket overhead. As a result of the Twitter account, noise complaints due to the helicopters are down 90 percent, Met spokesman Alex Fedorcio says. The account has been more successful than the department expected. Still, going viral is not something the Met tried to do, Fedorcio said. It's just a happy bonus.

This post originally appeared on Quartz. More from our partner site:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A Vancouver house designed in a modern style
    POV

    How Cities Get 'Granny Flats' Wrong

    A Vancouver designer says North American cities need bolder policies to realize the potential of accessory dwellings.

  2. Transportation

    Are Electric Vehicles About to Hit a Roadblock?

    With the EV tax credit on the chopping block and Tesla experiencing production delays, dreams of an electric future might prove elusive in the U.S.

  3. Transportation

    Avoiding Thanksgiving Traffic, With Science

    Find the best times (and modes!) to get to dinner this record-breaking holiday weekend.

  4. An autonomous vehicle drives on a race track in California.
    Equity

    Driverless Cars Won’t Save Us

    In fact, they’ll do the opposite of what techno-optimists hope, and worsen—not ease—inequality.

  5. Life

    A Bizarre Dispute Nearly Derailed America's 'City on a Hill'

    The traditional story of the Pilgrims leaves out the real danger that emerged from two Englishmen who sought to undermine the legal basis for settlements in New England.