SASKATOON -- Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) is looking at the cost of providing 24-hour coverage with the Air Support Unit (ASU), according to the unit's 2020 annual report.

"Since 2009, the nature of policing in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan has changed. The role and capabilities of the ASU has also changed, making it one of the most desired policing tools today."

SPS spokesperson Julie Clarke said in an email that the exact number hours ASU is in flight fluctuates depending on weather, training, pilot days off and aircraft maintenance. Last year, total flight hours were 1,115.

"We are exploring the possibility of increasing the number of pilots in the unit, therefore increasing the number of flight hours. There are significant extra costs associated with this. No decisions have been made at this time as we are still exploring all options," she said.

The ASU responded to 1,941 calls in 2020, leading to 251 arrests and 879 charges, according to the report.

According to the report, the ASU often cleared the call within seconds or minutes - much shorter than it would have taken for a patrol car.

In addition, the ASU is researching the ability to stream live, secure video to decision makers on the ground.

A moving target indicator would also enhance searching capabilities, including searching for vulnerable people, the report says.