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A fleet of drones is set to strengthen the police presence in New York with the legendary NYPD deciding to acquire unarmed flying craft to help its officers with certain missions seen as particularly sensitive. This technological innovation has thrown up a mixed reaction, with enthusiasm for the cause tempered by concerns for civil liberties.

 

The police in New York has announced that is to purchase drones to help its officers carry out certain types of missions. The NYPD, which is the largest police force in the USA, is set to acquire a mini-fleet of 14 flying craft according to CNN.

The drones will not be armed, but their usage will be subject to strict regulations, with the police only calling on them for the search and rescue of people in danger, in cases such as hostage situations and to fly over crime scenes that are hard to access.

 

Unarmed drones to improve effectiveness in sensitive situations

 

"As the largest municipal police unit in the USA, the NYPD must always be prepared to leverage the benefits that new technologies can provide," said the NYPD’s police commissioner James P. O’Neill, who is right behind this new programme. The commissioner believes that it will significantly increase the effectiveness of police officers in New York when it comes to serving and protecting the city’s citizens. The use of these unarmed drones will enable "the New York police force to carry out sensitive work in a more efficient and less dangerous way", he added.

A presentation video showing the eVTOL (vertical take-off and landing) craft has been published on the Twitter account of a high-ranking NYPD official. The fleet will include 11 small drones destined to be used for tactical operations and two larger ones that are water-resistant and fitted with thermal cameras and cartography equipment. The last of the 14 drones meanwhile will be kept for training and testing purposes.

 

A threat to civil liberties?

 

The use of drones by the NYPD has not been met with universal acclaim, however. A number of US organisations have shown their disapproval for this technological evolution, which has nevertheless already been taken on by various units across the country, with the USA currently having no fewer than 900 emergency teams – including police officers as well as fire-fighters and emergency medical services– equipped with flying craft.

Organisations which have spoken out against the drones include the Union of Civil Liberties of the city of New York which has voiced its concern, underlining the "absence of restrictions on the use of drones by the police, which could enable the NYPD to film and store footage of any citizen visible from the sky".

 

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