@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 rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.

  2. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.

  3. Tech workers sit around a table on their laptops in San Francisco, California
    Life

    America’s Tech Hubs Still Dominate, But Some Smaller Cities Are Rising

    Despite established urban tech hubs, some smaller cities are attracting high-tech jobs with lower living costs, unique talent pools, and geographic diversity.

  4. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.

  5. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.