Aerial roof markings

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

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

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

Police vehicles

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
  • 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 MoD Police – 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

The Police National Computer (PNC) is used by UK police forces and other government agencies to store and retrieve data about people, vehicles, and 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 CodeGovernment department
01Metropolitan Police
02Metropolitan Police
03Cumbria Constabulary
04Lancashire Constabulary
05Merseyside Police
06Greater Manchester Police
07Cheshire Constabulary
08Criminal Cases Review Commission
09Post Office Security
10Northumbria Police
11Durham Constabulary
12North Yorkshire Police
13West Yorkshire Police
14South Yorkshire Police
15RMP Provost Police

RAF Police

16Humberside Police
17Cleveland Police
18Department of Trade and Industry
19X400 Interface Broadcasts
20West Midlands Police
21Staffordshire Police
22West Mercia Police
23Warwickshire Police
24MoD Police
25PNC Hendon
26PNC Horseferry (Testing)
27PNC Testing
28PNC Restart terminals 1
29PNC Restart terminals 2
30Derbyshire Constabulary
31Nottinghamshire Police
32Lincolnshire Police
33Leicestershire Constabulary
34Northamptonshire Police
35Cambridgeshire Constabulary
36Norfolk Constabulary
37Suffolk Constabulary
38Thames Valley Constabulary
39NPT (formerly CTS)
40Bedfordshire Police
41Hertfordshire Police
42Essex Police
43Thames Valley Police
44Hampshire Constabulary
45Surrey Police
46Kent Police
47Sussex Police
48City of London Police
49Kent Ports Police
50Devon & Cornwall Police
PNC CodeGovernment department
51Force 51 (out of use)
52Avon & Somerset Constabulary
53Gloucestershire Constabulary
54Wiltshire Police
55Dorset Police
56Guernsey Police
57Jersey Police
58Port of Dover Police
59Civil Nuclear Constabulary
60North Wales Police
61Gwent Police
62South Wales Police
63Dyfed-Powys Police
64National Ports Office
65National Joint Unit
67National Crime Agency (formerly NCIS)
68Government Communications Headquarters
69Force 69 - Force code not used
70Police Scotland (formerly Dumfries & Galloway Police)
71Royal Navy NIS Liaison
73Army NIS Liaison
74Police Scotland (formerly Strathclyde Police)
75HSE Nuclear Directorate
76Police Scotland (formerly Lothian & Borders Police)
78Police Scotland (formerly Fife Constabulary)
79Bramshill Police College
80Police Scotland (formerly Tayside Police)
81Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) Security
82Police Scotland (formerly Grampian Police)
83Police Scotland (formerly Scottish Police College)
84Police Scotland (formerly Central Scotland Police)
85Inland Revenue
86Prison Service
87Police Scotland (formerly Northern Constabulary)
88Customs & Excise
89Department of the Environment
90Police Scotland (formerly Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency)
91National Crime Agency (formerly National Crime Squad)
93British Transport Police
95Criminal Records Office
96Police Scotland (formerly SPSA)
97Isle of Man Police
98Police Service of Northern Ireland
99Criminal Records Office
100Departmental Security Units
Thermal roof markings seen through a thermal camera

Thermal roof markings

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.

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

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

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


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 April 5, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Home Office Police Science Development Branch, publication 43/04 2004.
  3. Ibid., Appendix B
  5. HMHO PDF Thermal Roof Markings
  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