NYPD Drone Program Takes To The Skies

New York Police Department chief Terence Monahan has announced the NYPD’s adoption of drone technology. At a press event yesterday, the NYPD unveiled a fleet of 14 drones made up of models from DJI, including the Matrice, the Mavic and the Inspire series.

Three scenarios in which drones could make a big difference were demonstrated to reporters: a hazardous material spill, a collision with fatalities and a missing persons case.

“This cutting-edge technology joins a long list of tools at the NYPD’s disposal during emergency situations. All of which help the men and women in blue uphold their mission to protect every New Yorker,” said Chief Monahan yesterday.

“The use of drones will also enhance officer safety, whether responding to a hazardous material spill, a hostage situation or an area that is rendered inaccessible. Drone technology will give our cops and their commanders an opportunity to see what they are getting into before they go into harm’s way.”

It would be negligent for us not to use this technology.” – Chief Terence Monahan, NYPD.

Indeed, the NYPD follows a number of law enforcement agencies around the world who are using drones to support officers, protect the public and generally make fighting crime easier.

Protecting the public while addressing their concerns?

The new NYPD drone fleet will support officers with their daily tasks and provide situational awareness in quickly unfolding scenarios. But there are concerns, voiced strongly by the New York Civil Liberties Union among others, that the department’s drone policy isn’t restrictive enough to protect the privacy of New York residents.

In a statement, the NYCLU‘s Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn argued, “The NYPD’s drone policy places no meaningful restrictions on police deployment of drones in New York City and opens the door to the police department building a permanent archive of drone footage of political activity and intimate private behavior visible only from the sky.”

These concerns may well be justified. It’s important that the use of drones is conducted with public privacy in mind. However, 14 DJI drones supporting officers across New York does not constitute Big Brother, particularly when these models are better suited to providing situational awareness from a distance than recording ‘intimate private behavior’.

“The NYPD is aware that there are some concerns about this announcement,” said Chief Monahan. “So, let me be clear: NYPD drones will not be used for warrantless surveillance. NYPD drones will be used to save lives and enhance our response in emergency situations.”

Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. He handles product reviews, major releases and keeps an eye on the enthusiast market for DroneLife.
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