The New York Police Department will begin using drones in certain situations where it believes the technology would be beneficial. These law enforcement scenarios include hostage situations, large gatherings where security is difficult, crime scenes where aerial documentation is needed, and more. This is the first time the NYPD has turned to drones since shuttering its previous UAV program in 2011.
The NYPD announced its new UAS program in a statement today, revealing that it will include newly acquired drones operated by the department’s licensed Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU). The drones may be used in situations that include search and rescue, hazardous material incidents, and more.
The department, which is the largest of its kind in the United States, says that its TARU personnel had to undergo “vigorous training,” and they will exclusively be operating the aerial vehicles. TARU is tasked with supporting all NYPD bureaus, including everything from the Emergency Service Unit to patrol.
In addition to the situations where the NYPD may deploy drones, the department detailed potential ways the drones will be used, including gathering surveillance footage, recording police activity during large demonstrations and arrests, and providing live video feeds of incidents to commanders during various emergencies.
In a statement, NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:
As the largest municipal police department in the United States, the NYPD must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology. Our new UAS program is part of this evolution – it enables our highly-trained cops to be even more responsive to the people we serve, and to carry out the NYPD’s critical work in ways that are more effective, efficient, and safe for everyone.
The department says that it consulted with other police departments that are already using drones, doing so during the R&D part of its own program. City Council members and advocates were both also consulted for feedback on the plan. The department has disclosed situations that it has deemed “unacceptable uses” for its drones, including:
– Routine patrol
– Traffic enforcement
– Immobilizing vehicles or suspects
– Use as a weapon or equipping a drone with a weapon
– Searching without a warrant
As of the launch of the program, the NYPD has purchased 11 DJI Mavic Pro quadcopters, one DJI Inspire 1 drone, and two DJI M210 RTK quadcopters. The Inspire 1 will be reserved for testing and training, the M210 RTKs will be used for mapping, search and rescue, and similar situations, while the Mavic Pros will be limited to “tactical operations.”