The details are contained in the annual report of An Garda Síochána, which also shows the gardaí’s dog unit was involved in 343 searches last year, including an operation in which €400,000 worth of heroin was found and another in which AK47 weapons were recovered.
The report shows that garda aircraft flew more than 1,550 hours on 1,507 flights while attending to over 2,150 incidents last year. The unit was also involved in the arrests of over 250 suspects, 15 missing person cases, and 60 vehicles were located.
Since Operation Thor, which targets burglaries, got underway last November, the air support unit has attended 35 incidents on 12 flights, involving arrests of four suspects and the locating of one vehicle.
In August, the Garda helicopter used night vision equipment following a request from the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) to target a criminal gang stealing ESB power lines. Following a power outage in the midlands, a suspect car was tracked by the garda helicopter until it was intercepted by DOCB and five suspects were detained.
In a separate incident in September last year, the helicopter was deployed to the border region to help search for a missing person with a history of self-harm.
Using thermal image search equipment the missing person was found in a distressed and semi-conscious state. Afterwards, ambulance staff suggested that the person may not have survived the night had they not been found at that time by the helicopter unit.
Examples of work by the Garda Dog Unit included the discovery by Garda Dog Flynn of heroin worth €400,000 in a rubbish skip, which was placed in a driveway of a premises in the Donaghmede area of Dublin.
Elsewhere, planned searches of two houses in the Crumlin area of Dublin resulted in the same dog indicating separate locations in which a semi-automatic handgun and a large amount of 9mm and 5.56mm ammunition were found.
The report also outlines how the dog unit assisted members of Special Detective Unit and Emergency Response Unit in planned searches of a house and lands at Jenkinstown, Co Louth.
The searches were conducted as part of ongoing investigations into the activities of dissident republicans and during the course of the operation, explosive material, bomb-making equipment and AK47s were discovered by the Garda dogs, hidden in various locations in fields.
A suspect was later arrested.