The nation’s largest police force said Tuesday it is adding drones to its crime-fighting arsenal.
More than a dozen unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be used for search and rescue, to investigate hazardous materials, and to access crime scenes in tall buildings.
The move is particularly significant benchmark for U.S. law enforcement agencies because smaller police departments often follow the lead of larger, big city forces like the New York Police Department (NYPD).
“The NYPD has a trailblazing effect when it comes to new technology and almost all aspects of policing,” said Christopher Dickey, author of “Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force," which chronicled groundbreaking technology innovations within the NYPD under former police commissioner Ray Kelly, following the 9/11 terror attacks.
The New York City Fire Department has used drones to monitor fires but, until now, the New York Police Department had relied on drones that belong to law enforcement partners.
“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,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
“Our new Unmanned Aircraft System (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,” O’Neill said.
The drones will be unarmed and not equipped with facial recognition technology, according to a department spokeswoman who added they would not be used for warrantless surveillance.
Specially-trained officers from the department's Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) will operate the drones, the department said.