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NYPD Acquires 14 Drones for New Unmanned Aircraft System Program

BY Isabella Lee
12 December 2018

Earlier this month, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced its Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program. The Department has acquired 14 new drones and brought on licensed NYPD officers to operate them as part of the program. Fittingly, the drones will be operated by the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU).

NYPD Drone Program

Source: NYPD

The NYPD has recognized the benefits drones provide in helping them maintain the safety of their community. Whether it’s a search and rescue mission, an inaccessible crime scene, a hostage situation, or a hazardous material incident, drones can assist to help keep New Yorkers and officers safe.

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.

— Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill

The UAS program can help the NYPD gather crucial information as situations unfold without putting officers at risk and lessen harm and danger to civilian bystanders and other involved parties.

Chief of Department Terence Monahan shared the announcement on Twitter after a press conference, expressing that this new program will help police men and women uphold their mission to protect every New Yorker.

Addressing the Community’s Concerns About Drones

The NYPD isn’t the first police department to add a drone program. Drones have already been put to use by over 900 public service agencies according to a study by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone. Here at UAV Coach, we’ve even had the opportunity to interview public safety officials from Tennessee and Illinois about how they use drones to keep their communities safe.

Drone use by police departments is growing, but some scepticism remains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, introducing a drone fleet has stirred up some concerns among the New York community—primarily concerns about privacy and the weaponization of drones. In an interview with Here & Now, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan stated that the drones will not be used to surveil individuals, nor will they ever be weaponized. “That is absolutely forbidden by our policy,” Monahan told Here & Now.

To further address these concerns, the Department has outlined and publicly shared a list of acceptable and unacceptable uses for the drones.

NYPD Drone Program Acceptable Uses

Source: NYPD

The Department has assured the community that these devices will be deployed solely by licensed members of TARU who have gone through vigorous training.

NYPD Exclusively Adds DJI Drones to their UAS Program

As mentioned previously, there are more than 900 state and local police, fire and emergency units with UAVs across the U.S. The NYPD looked to these existing programs during the research and development stage of their own program. NYPD officials met with other police departments to learn about their programs. Additionally, the Department solicited feedback from City Council members and advocates.

It makes sense that the NYPD selected DJI as the drone manufacturer from which to purchase their drones. DJI dominates the global drone market, with a 74% global market share in sales across all price points according to Skylogic Research. The NYPD drone program will consist of 11 DJI Mavic Pro quadcopters, two DJI M210 RTK quadcopters, and one DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter.

The drones will be used by trained officers of the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU). TARU provides specialized investigative equipment and tactical support to all bureaus within the NYPD, from officers on patrol to the Emergency Service Unit (ESU). The unit’s expertise in audio/visual technology helps: enhance investigations through the recovery of surveillance video footage; record police action at large-scale demonstrations and arrest situations; and provide crucial live video to incident commanders during ongoing emergency situations.

Learn more about how police are using drones here. Also, visit our community forum to share your thoughts on the NYPD UAS program. We want to hear your thoughts on drones, public safety, and emergency services.

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