UPDATED 9:38 AM PT — Wed. Dec. 5, 2018
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is planning to roll-out 14 new drones to help law enforcement efforts across the city. The initiative is part of it’s unmanned aircraft system program, which was announced Tuesday.
The department met with civil liberty groups before the announcement, who have since voiced privacy concerns. However, the NYPD maintains the devices won’t be used to “spy” on New Yorkers or even for routine operations.
“The NYPD is aware that there are some concerns about this announcement, so let me be clear: NYPD drones will not be used for warrantless surveillances,” stated Chief Terence Monahan. “NYPD drones will be used to save lives.”
Officials say the technology will help police in specific scenarios such as hostage situations during large events or in hazardous spills.
The NYPD also says the drones will be extremely helpful in search and rescue missions as well as in inaccessible crime scenes.
“UAV has thermal imaging cameras within the aircraft and can detect heat signatures emitted from a person,” explained NYPD drone pilot Deepu John. “Once a subject is located a second team can fly closer to them to get a visual of their face helping to identify who they are.”
So far, just under 30 officers have been trained to use aerial vehicles. The NYPD is just one of over 900 state and local police departments who use drones.