You may hear the chopping of a helicopter’s propeller before you see the aircraft. When you look up, you might wonder, “why is a helicopter circling my area?”
You may get nervous, but is your fear justified? What should you do if it circles your neighborhood for an uncomfortably long time? Is everything okay in your neighborhood?
There could be a number of reasons why a helicopter is circling your area, but the most likely reason is that it’s performing a search and rescue mission. Other reasons could be conducting a police search, surveying damage from a natural disaster, or providing medical transport.
If you’re concerned about the helicopter activity, you can always contact your local law enforcement or fire department to inquire about the situation.
This article will detail the possible reasons why a helicopter is circling your neighborhood right now and what you should do when it happens.
Read on to learn more about why helicopters might be circling your neighborhood and how to react.
Table of Contents
- Why Is a Helicopter Circling My Area?
- Why Do Helicopters Circle Around Neighborhoods?
- Type of Helicopters That Could Circle Your Area
- What Do Police Helicopters Do?
- Why Is a Police Helicopter Circling My Area?
- How to Find Out Why a Helicopter Is Flying Over Your House?
Why Is a Helicopter Circling My Area?
Helicopters can cause uncomfortable amounts of noise as well as a lot of anxiety. Not every helicopter is circling because of a crime.
In some cases, the helicopter may be with the police or other emergency services, and they are responding to a call.
In other cases, the helicopter may be part of a news team covering a story in the area. There are also times when a helicopter is circling over your neighborhood to save fuel.
It may help to learn who is flying these helicopters and why they might be circling your area to ease these concerns.
Here is a short list of reasons why a helicopter may be circling your neighborhood:
Search and Rescue Operations
If an accident occurs, a helicopter can locate and rescue missing persons.
It is more efficient to track them from the sky than on foot or in cars, and many search and rescue helicopters have thermal imaging.
Law Enforcement Activities
The police use helicopters to monitor traffic and help catch criminals on the run, among other tasks.
If you see a police helicopter on patrol, it is best not to panic, and head inside if you can. This article will detail more functions of police helicopters later.
To Take Photographs or Video Footage
Sometimes, the law and the media need a bird’s-eye view of a situation. News stations and law enforcement use helicopters to film video footage from thousands of feet above.
If you are outside wondering, “why is there a helicopter over me?”, it might be best to go indoors.
Construction Site Monitoring
If you live near a construction site and wonder, “why is there a helicopter over me?”, there is probably no cause for alarm.
Construction is dangerous work, and it can be hard to see every part of a building in progress at once. Civilian helicopters monitor the safety of construction sites all the time.
Drop Supplies or Equipment
Military and police helicopters may drop extra supplies or equipment to units on the ground—especially if a disaster left people stranded or injured.
Medical or emergency helicopters need to balance their weight with the supplies that they need to carry.
If you’re asking, “why is a helicopter circling my area?”, it may help to check the news to see if something happened.
Why Do Helicopters Circle Around Neighborhoods?
But even after learning why various industries use helicopters, you may still be wondering, “why is there a helicopter circling my neighborhood right now?”
Specifically, why do helicopters circle instead of hover or land? Here are 7 reasons a helicopter might circle over your street.
To Use Less Power & Fuel
You may wonder why helicopters circle at all. The answer is simpler than you think. One of the biggest reasons helicopters circle instead of hover is that it takes more fuel to hover than to circle.
The answer to “why is there a police helicopter circling my area?” might be to save on fuel while they work.
To Survey an Area
Buildings and trees often block the view for helicopters. Circling lets them survey an area for the best view possible.
If you are curious about the question, “why is there a helicopter circling my neighborhood right now?”, then the answer might be that the helicopter needs a better view.
You may not be in immediate danger.
Checking Rooftops for Burglars
Police helicopters can be used to stop a crime in progress by catching burglars on the roof of your house, hidden behind bushes, or hiding elsewhere on your property.
Not only can they spot the suspect, but also track them. If you wonder, “why do police helicopters circle at night?” then this is probably your answer.
Testing a New Helicopter (or Pilot)
Any kind of helicopter can fly over residential areas for a practice flight.
A local service may be testing a new helicopter, or a new pilot may need experience in the sky. This form of helicopter practice is very common in areas near military bases.
Checking Large, Fenced Areas
Helicopters are good for monitoring large, fenced areas because foot traffic is not feasible. This includes ranches, nature preserves, and any other large, fenced areas that can’t be walked.
If your neighborhood is near a ranch or wildlife preserve, you may wonder “why is there a helicopter over me?” more often.
For Weather Reporting or Tracking Storm Systems
Newscasters use helicopters to get a bird’s-eye view of storms from a distance. Many aircraft have radar to alert them to oncoming bad weather; news stations take advantage of this.
The helicopter will let the station know if a tornado is coming sooner than other forms of storm chasing. The same radar allows helicopters to avoid bad storms.
For Oil Rig Inspections
Since many oil rigs are at sea, helicopters are one of the very few ways to inspect an oil rig.
Similarly, the Coast Guard and other water-based occupations use helicopters to access areas that other vehicles cannot.
If you live near the ocean, the answer to “why is there a helicopter circling my neighborhood right now?” may have to do with an operation performed at sea.
Type of Helicopters That Could Circle Your Area
Three major types of helicopters fly above residences: police, military, and civilian. Each of these has different reasons for flying over populated areas.
Police helicopters are almost always on duty, whether it is patrolling from the sky, catching criminals, monitoring traffic, or training.
You may be able to see stripes or other markings indicating that the helicopter in your neighborhood is a police helicopter. If a helicopter is flying lower than usual, it is probably a police helicopter.
Military helicopters are uncommon sights in the United States. They are usually used to deliver troops and supplies to soldiers and bases.
Military helicopters are also sometimes used for medical evacuation or to launch attacks from above.
Unless you live near a military base, it is unlikely that you will see a military helicopter in your neighborhood. If you do, they probably mean no harm and are practicing.
This type of helicopter covers everything that is not related to law enforcement or the army, including media and construction work.
Other industries such as oil, healthcare, firefighting, the Coast Guard, and agriculture also use helicopters. They may even be carrying celebrities.
The next time you wonder, “why is a police helicopter circling my area?”, try downloading an app called Citizen.
The app can tell you what kind of helicopter is flying over your neighborhood. It will also give you other information about potential emergencies.
Regardless of the type of helicopter over your head, the best thing to do is remain calm and get inside if need be.
What Do Police Helicopters Do?
If you have identified a police helicopter circling in your neighborhood, you have the right to ask, “why is a police helicopter circling my area?” It could be doing many different tasks.
Law enforcement uses helicopters for various tasks, including:
Searching for Missing Persons
If you live in a rural area, a helicopter may be above your neighborhood looking for a missing person.
They can travel around 150 mph, making it easy to cover large areas. Police helicopters often have thermal imaging to detect someone’s body heat.
Using a helicopter is more efficient than trying to track someone on foot.
Helicopters make it very easy for law enforcement to monitor traffic.
Not only do the police need to watch traffic for accidents, but if a suspect tries to flee, the police can track their vehicle and follow their every turn. They can do this during the day and night.
Police helicopters are astonishingly effective at catching suspects in the act, especially at night. Rooftops and bits of shrubbery are easy to see from above.
The aerial view allows law enforcement helicopters to track criminals and alert other cops to their location. If a police helicopter has thermal imaging, the suspect will have nowhere to hide.
The police may use a helicopter to monitor public events as well as traffic and criminal activity.
Other times, they are on patrol, exactly like a police car would be. Do not panic if this is the case. Again, surveillance can happen at any time of day.
Providing Aerial Support During Emergencies and Natural Disasters
Many different kinds of emergency services use helicopters to fly supplies down to those in need.
They can also provide search and rescue services, especially if they are equipped with thermal imaging.
You should expect more helicopters if there has been a disaster.
Why Is a Police Helicopter Circling My Area?
There could be many reasons for a police helicopter circling your area. The most benign of them is training.
It is more likely, however, that the police are patrolling from the air, monitoring traffic, or trying to catch a suspect.
Please do not ask any police workers at ground level “why is there a helicopter over me?” They may not answer; it is usually better to head inside and let them work.
How to Find Out Why a Helicopter Is Flying Over Your House?
While most helicopter activity is nothing to be concerned about, if you see a helicopter circling your area and it seems to be doing so repeatedly or for an extended period of time, it may be worth investigating further.
You can find out why a helicopter is flying over your house by contacting the local police or fire department to see if they are aware of any operations going on in the area that might explain the activity.
Why Do Helicopters Circle Before Landing?
Helicopters circle before landing for many reasons. One of them is to check the wind. Another is to make sure there is adequate space for the helicopter to land. Another still is that buildings, trees, etc. can block their view, and circling to get the best view is more They may also be signaling to people below to make space, and communicate their intentions with other airborne vehicles using lights.
What Do I Do When a Helicopter is Circling?
If you know there is a place with helicopter monitoring nearby (such as a public event, a nature preserve, or the ocean), or a military base near where you live, you can probably carry on with your outdoor activities. If you recognize the helicopter as being tied to the media, go inside unless you wish to be on television. The best thing you can do when a police helicopter is circling is to go inside. Whatever the police are doing, you shouldn’t interfere.
What Does a Green Light Mean on a Police Helicopter?
The green and red lights on a helicopter tell the people below where and how the helicopter is landing, as well as alert other aircraft to their presence. If you see a green light, the vehicle is moving from left to right; if you see a red light, it is going from right to left. These signals are largely designed to avoid collisions with other aircraft, but can also be seen from the ground.
Why Do Police Helicopters Circle At Night?
If you see a police helicopter circling at night, they are probably on a mission. There may be a criminal on the loose. The police may also be searching for a missing person. Although some police helicopters might be training at night, there is a higher probability that something has gone wrong.
If you see a helicopter and wonder, “why is there a helicopter circling my area right now?”, your best move is probably to go indoors – especially if you can identify it as a police helicopter.
The police may be trying to catch a criminal, but they also use helicopters to monitor traffic, deliver supplies, and search for missing persons. If you see a police helicopter at a major public event, there is no need to worry.
And if you just moved to an area with a heavy helicopter presence, the question “why is there a helicopter over me?” will become white noise.
Robert Bacon is a car nerd and automotive lover who has dedicated his life to understanding the inner workings of vehicles. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering and has spent years working as a mechanic and engineer for some of the world’s top car companies. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about cars on this blog and tinkering with his 2016 Toyota Mirai in his garage.