Why Is a Helicopter Circling My Area?

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?

Why is there a helicopter circling around my neighborhood right now?

There could be several reasons 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.

How to find out why a helicopter is circling?

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 answer everything you need to know about why a helicopter is circling your neighborhood right now and what you should do when it happens.

why is there a helicopter circling my area

How To Find Out 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.

Sometimes, the helicopter may be with the police or other emergency services, and they respond 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.

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 they need. It may help to check the news to see if something has happened. 

Why Do Helicopters Circle Around Neighborhoods?

The next question that may come to your mind is – why do helicopters circle instead of hover or land?

Here are seven 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.

So, if they aren’t clear for landing, helicopter pilots prefer to circle the area rather than hover.

To Survey an Area

Buildings and trees often block the view for helicopters. Circling lets them survey an area for the best view possible.

Checking Rooftops for Burglars

Police helicopters can stop a crime in progress by catching burglars on the roof of your house, behind bushes, or hiding elsewhere on your property.

Not only can they spot the suspect, but circling over the area also helps track them.

Testing a New Helicopter (or Pilot) 

Any kind of helicopter can fly over residential areas for a practice flight. A local service may test 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 other large, fenced areas that can’t be walked.

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 few ways to inspect an oil rig. Similarly, the Coast Guard and other water-based occupations use helicopters to access areas other vehicles cannot.

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
Image source: Wikipedia

Police helicopters are almost always on duty, whether patrolling from the sky, catching criminals, monitoring traffic, or training.

You may 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

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. 


civilian helicopters

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, 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. 

Monitoring Traffic

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. 

Chasing Suspects

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. 

Conducting Surveillance

The police may use a helicopter to monitor public events, 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 know of any operations happening 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 signal 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?

Suppose you know a place with helicopter monitoring nearby (such as a public event, a nature preserve, or the ocean) or a military base near you. In that case, you can probably carry on with your outdoor activities. If you recognize the helicopter as 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 and 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 of something going wrong.


If you see a helicopter circling over your area, your best move is 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.

7 thoughts on “Why Is a Helicopter Circling My Area?”

  1. Today March 2023 What are the Military Choppers doing flying around The Central Ohio area ? It is not a common sight A month ago Military announced a exercise for Jets to fly from Air Force bases in Ohio to the East Coast nothing on Choppers

  2. June 29th, 2023 a very large, very loud solid gray helicopter circling around my neighborhood in Scottsdale, AZ for over an hour. Woke me up at 3:45 am & finally stopped or moved to a different neighborhood at 5:05 am.

  3. Hello frustrated people, I have experienced the worst summer ever with an excess of helicopter noise and planes since Calgary has two airports and they are ramping up their services. The word “excess” is to be noted. The constant thunderous noise and vibrations creates stress in me as I’m sure it does for others as well. Now I hesitate to even open my windows in the summer because, sure enough, I’m once again hearing that dreaded noise. This is not OK! Even at 3am or whenever.

  4. I’ve been in Phoenix 3 years and it’s been the last year I feel like I live in Viet Nam during the war, minus the bombs and bullets. It’s very unnerving. Anywhere from 6-12 x a day. All hours. I have to wear ear plugs as they will wake you up in the middle of the night. Many times that doesn’t help. White noise? These are low flying machines with intermittent chopping erratic loudness. This is not your continuous fan or even car. No matter what you’re doing you have to stop because you can’t hear yourself think let alone anything else. Not sure how they expect people to stay sane when you can’t sleep. This is a horrendous way to live!


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