Aerial roof markings

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Aerial roof markings are symbols, letters or numbers on the roof of selected police vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, coast guard vehicles, cash-in-transit vans, buses and boats to enable aircraft or CCTV to identify them. These markings can be used to identify a specific vehicle, vehicle type or agency. The markings, depending on the vehicle, or information required, may also be displayed on the bonnet, boot, or other areas of the vehicle visible from the air.


Different state police forces in Australia use different aerial roof markings to designate specific vehicles, duty types and areas.

New South Wales Police Force[edit]

Redfern Local Area Command 35, displaying aerial markings on the roof and bonnet. "RF" denotes the Command, being Redfern while "35" denotes its use as a general duties sedan.

Local Area Commands vehicle bonnet/roof codes

AB Albury AS Ashfield BA Barwon BB Botany Bay BK Bankstown
BL Blue Mountains BN Blacktown BR Barrier BU Burwood BW Brisbane Water
CA Campsie CB Canobolas CC Coffs/Clarence CEH Central Hunter CF Chifley
CM Cabramatta CN Camden CS Castlereagh CT Campbelltown CU Cootmundra
DL Darling River DQ Deniliquin EB Eastern Beaches ES Eastern Suburbs EW Eastwood
FA Fairfield FL Flemington FS Far South Coast GF Griffith GL Gladesville
GN Goulburn GV Green Valley HB Hawkesbury HI The Hills HR Holroyd
HS Harbourside HU Hurstville HV Hunter Valley JN Junee K Kempsy
KU Ku-Ring-Gai KX Kings Cross LE Leichhardt LI Lake Illawarra LL Lachlan
LM Lake Macquarie LP Liverpool MD Mount Druitt ME Mudgee MF Macquarie Fields
MG Manning/Great Lakes MI Miranda ML Manly MN Monaro MNC Mid North Coast
MR Marrickville NB Northern Beaches NTH Northern Highway Patrol NCC Newcastle City ND New England
NS North Shore NT Newtown NTH North OR Orana OX Oxley
PA Parramatta PE Penrith PTS Port Stephens QH Quakers Hill RB Rose Bay
RF Redfern RH Rosehill RM Richmond RY Ryde SC Sydney City
SG St George SH Surry Hills SM St Marys SU Sutherland SV Shoalhaven
TB Tweed/Byron TF Tenterfield TL Tuggerah Lakes WG Wollongong WW Wagga Wagga

Specialist squads/units and groups vehicle bonnet/roof codes

Fire appliances in New South Wales[edit]

Fire and Rescue NSW fit aerial identification markings to appliances that are indicative of the vehicles call sign. Example: "RP001" indicates the appliance is the Rescue Pumper belonging to station 001, the City of Sydney, while HH077 indicates the Heavy Hazmat support truck from St Marys fire station.

Fire and Rescue NSW aerial roof ID codes

AP Aerial Pump CT Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) Tanker DC Duty Commander
FIRU Fire Investigations & Research Unit H (HH) Hazmat (Heavy Hazmat) HH Heavy Hazmat
HP Hazmat Pumper HT Hazmat Tanker ICV Incident Control Vehicle
LP Ladder Platform LSV Logistical Support Vehicle P Pumper
R (HR) Rescue (Heavy Rescue) RP Rescue Pumper RT Rescue Tanker
SEV Service Exchange Vehicle (spare) USAR Urban Search and Rescue

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service fits aerial identification numbers to rural fire appliances with the format consisting of the letter "B" (for Bush Fire) and the last 4 digits of the vehicles RTA approved operations plate. Example: "BF-07967" allocates an aerial ID of "7967". These markings do not denote a vehicles callsign.[1]

The South Australian Country Fire Service have an infrared beacon on the roof of most new appliances and the vehicle call sign. As all trucks are named and numbered according to their location, capacity and capability (e.g. Hynam 34, Location: Hynam, 3000L, 4WD or Belair 34P, Location Belair, 3000L, 4WD, Pumper), their call sign is also placed on the roof of the cab in a red text on white roof fashion. Older State Emergency Service vehicles, primarily in country areas, may have their call sign on the roof as well.

United Kingdom[edit]

Police vehicles[edit]

Aerial roof markings on London Metropolitan police car

Police vehicles in the United Kingdom have markings of symbols, letters and numbers on their tops to enable aircraft to identify them. These markings show the use of the vehicle, its force code and a vehicle identifying mark or the police division to which the vehicle belongs.

Not every vehicle displays markings, but those involved in response and traffic generally do. This factor stems from guidelines of the Association of Chief Police Officers relating to police air operations and pursuit management.[2]

Vehicle usage markings

Vehicle usage markings[edit]

  • Armed response vehicle (ARV) used by armed police from various police units – five-point star ★
  • General (incident response vehicle or area car)/Traffic – a circle symbol ●
  • Dog support unit (DSU) – triangle ▲
  • Public order (PO) personnel carrier – square ◼
  • Police medics. Some policing vehicles like ARVs and IRVs may have major first aid and fire equipment installed with trained officers aboard – green cross +

On a typical vehicle roof layout, the vehicle usage marking is preceded by an integer PNC Force Identifier; the individual (and within each organisation, unique) Vehicle Identifier, commonly alphanumeric, should occupy a second line all by itself.[3]

Unique PNC force code[edit]

The Police National Computer (PNC) is used by UK police forces and other government agencies to store and retrieve data about people, vehicles, plant and government locations. Regarding roof markings, their inscription helps identifying the regional or institutional affiliation of each vehicle. PNC force codes are also used when custody records are created, when items are submitted to places such as the Forensic Science Service laboratory, when evidence is stored, or when documents are to be passed from one force to another. They also form the first two digits of any certificate issued under the Firearms Act since the introduction of the National Firearms Licensing Management System. For example, a licence issued by the Metropolitan Police will start with '02'.[citation needed]

PNC Code Department/Force
01 Metropolitan Police
02 Metropolitan Police
03 Cumbria Constabulary
04 Lancashire Constabulary
05 Merseyside Police
06 Greater Manchester Police
07 Cheshire Constabulary
08 Criminal Cases Review Commission
09 Post Office Security
10 Northumbria Police
11 Durham Constabulary
12 North Yorkshire Police
13 West Yorkshire Police
14 South Yorkshire Police
15 Royal Military Police and RAF Police
16 Humberside Police
17 Cleveland Police
18 Department of Trade and Industry
19 X400 Interface Broadcasts
20 West Midlands Police
21 Staffordshire Police
22 West Mercia Police
23 Warwickshire Police
24 Ministry of Defence Police
25 PNC Hendon
26 PNC Horseferry (Testing)
27 PNC Testing
28 PNC Restart terminals 1
29 PNC Restart terminals 2
30 Derbyshire Constabulary
31 Nottinghamshire Police
32 Lincolnshire Police
33 Leicestershire Constabulary
34 Northamptonshire Police
35 Cambridgeshire Constabulary
36 Norfolk Constabulary
37 Suffolk Constabulary
38 Thames Valley Constabulary
39 NPT (formerly CTS)
40 Bedfordshire Police
41 Hertfordshire Constabulary
42 Essex Police
43 Thames Valley Police
44 Hampshire Constabulary
45 Surrey Police
46 Kent Police
47 Sussex Police
48 City of London Police
49 Kent Ports Police
50 Devon & Cornwall Police
PNC Code Government department
51 Force 51 (out of use)
52 Avon & Somerset Constabulary
53 Gloucestershire Constabulary
54 Wiltshire Police
55 Dorset Police
56 Guernsey Police
57 Jersey Police
58 Port of Dover Police
59 Civil Nuclear Constabulary
60 North Wales Police
61 Gwent Police
62 South Wales Police
63 Dyfed-Powys Police
64 National Ports Office
65 National Joint Unit
66 Nuclear Information Service
67 National Crime Agency (formerly NCIS)
68 Government Communications Headquarters
69 Home Office Immigration Enforcement
70 Police Scotland (formerly Dumfries & Galloway Police)
71 Royal Navy NIS Liaison
72 Royal Air Force
73 Army NIS Liaison
74 Police Scotland (formerly Strathclyde Police)
75 HSE Nuclear Directorate
76 Police Scotland (formerly Lothian & Borders Police)
77 Department for Work and Pensions
78 Police Scotland (formerly Fife Constabulary)
79 Bramshill Police College
80 Police Scotland (formerly Tayside Police)
81 Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) Security
82 Police Scotland (formerly Grampian Police)
83 Police Scotland (formerly Scottish Police College)
84 Police Scotland (formerly Central Scotland Police)
85 Inland Revenue
86 Her Majesty's Prison Service
87 Police Scotland (formerly Northern Constabulary)
88 Her Majesty's Customs and Excise
89 Department of the Environment
90 Police Scotland (formerly Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency)
91 National Crime Agency (formerly National Crime Squad)
92 National Automated Fingerprint Identification System
93 British Transport Police
94 Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
95 Criminal Records Bureau
96 Police Scotland (formerly SPSA)
97 Isle of Man Police
98 Police Service of Northern Ireland
99 Criminal Records Bureau
100 Departmental Security Units

Thermal roof markings[edit]

In 2004, the UK Home Office, under direction from the Technical and Training Committee of ACPO Air Operations were tasked with improving the recognition and identification of police vehicles amongst other traffic, particularly when operating at night. Colour images show the flashing blue lights but other details are lost, and a thermal camera image would show the vehicles and surroundings, but the livery and roofbar lighting could not be seen. The preferred solution was to make the police vehicle distinguishable when viewed with a thermal camera.

Thermal Roof marking image
Thermal roof markings seen through a thermal camera

Working with QinetiQ, they developed a thermally reflective marking film and issued the publication "Thermal Roof Markings for Police Vehicles 43/04".[4]

These markings reflect infra-red light back to the thermal imager, resulting in a contrast between the cold reflection and the ground / vehicle temperature. Being passive in nature, they require no activity on the part of the air observer or vehicle crew, nor any power from the vehicle.[5]

Public buses[edit]

Aerial roof markings on a London bus.

Vehicles operating London Buses services carry roof markings, as shown in the image opposite. The first three letters denote the operator (ARL is Arriva London) and the remaining letters and numbers are the fleet number (VLW 92), which also appears on the front and rear of the vehicle.

Operator codes include:


Fire vehicles[edit]

In Germany, DIN 14035, "Dachkennzeichen für Feuerwehrfahrzeuge" (Roof Marking of Fire Engines), issued in November 1981,[6] defines that fire engines should carry their registration plate number; these include the one-to-three letter abbreviation code of the corresponding Landkreis, thus making regional origin self-evident. The inscription is recommended to be at least 40 cm in size; the font color should, in terms of roof painting, be "white on red", or "black on white and aluminium/metallic".[7]

As DIN standards are, however, not generally binding in Germany, but mere recommendations, the scheme is not used everywhere, with some fire companies preferring visually appealing inscriptions like company name or logo. Many others show their cars' radio call signs (traditionally "Florian ##", cf. de:Funkrufname); over the years, various local efforts have been made to match both designations, aided by district administrations that reserved registered car like designations on principle.[8]

European Union[edit]


CEN 1789, "Medical vehicles and their equipment - Road ambulances", reissued in 2007, recommends in its "informative" annex A "Recognition", that roofs of ambulance vehicles should bear the Red Cross/Crescent Emblems or the Star of Life.


Aerial roof markings are used by Toronto Police Service (# of cruiser) and Toronto EMS (Toronto EMS with region and number) to provide identification from the air. In the Metro Vancouver, British Columbia area, the various police forces have their specific municipal code and vehicle number on the roof for airborne identification.


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Home Office Police Science Development Branch, publication 43/04 2004.
  3. ^ Ibid., Appendix B
  4. ^ Thermal markings specification
  5. ^ "UK Government Web Archive" (PDF). Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  6. ^ Wichtige Normen für den Brandschutz Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-03-14
  7. ^ FTZ Gifhorn: Dachkennzeichnung für Feuerwehrfahrzeuge Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2011-03-14
  8. ^ Ibid., though only one example

External links[edit]

Media related to Aerial roof markings at Wikimedia Commons