A Black Hawk helicopter flies above Ocean Parkway. (April 18,...

A Black Hawk helicopter flies above Ocean Parkway. (April 18, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

State-of-the-art Defense Department photographic technology was aboard the FBI's Black Hawk helicopter that combed the Gilgo Beach area from the sky this week searching for evidence and more human remains, several sources said.

The equipment, described by the FBI as the newest technology in its digital crime-fighting arsenal, can capture extremely detailed images of tiny objects on the ground when analyzed, even if recorded from high-flying aircraft, the sources said.

An FBI light plane also flying over the area was equipped with more traditional high-resolution photographic equipment, the sources said.

The aircraft were added to the search after 10 sets of human remains were found along the barrier island since December. Among them are four skeletons found at Gilgo Beach, which later were identified as young women who worked as prostitutes. The other remains, which include those of a child and a skull found in a bag, have not been identified.

The imaging equipment in both the FBI helicopter and the light plane are designed to provide detailed maps and precise locations of potential evidence or remains, which might not be obvious to investigators at the beach scene, much of which is covered with thick brambles.

The sources declined to discuss specific details about the imaging equipment or its exact capabilities, but one said it is believed to be one of the first uses by the FBI of the Defense Department's imaging technology in a criminal investigation.

FBI spokeswoman Ann Todd said, "The Ocean Parkway investigation has provided an opportunity for the FBI to try new imaging technologies in a way that we hope will be helpful to the investigation."