NYPD’s Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance

Skyward Shift: The Dramatic Evolution of NYPD's Drone Operations Across New York's Boroughs

In the dynamic skyline of City, a quiet yet profound transformation is taking place. Far above the bustling streets, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, are becoming an increasingly integral part of the New York Department's (NYPD) toolkit.

Our investigation into the latest data reveals striking trends and shifts in the use of drones across the city's boroughs, painting a picture of a future where technology and law enforcement intertwine more closely than ever before.

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the cumulative drone operations conducted across various boroughs of New York City for every quarter.

The NYPD diligently records and publicly shares the deployment details of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems. These quarterly reports provide insights into the frequency and nature of drone use, broken down by the purpose and location within the city's boroughs.

In our quest to understand the nuances of NYPD's drone missions, we delved into this wealth of data. Our objective was to unearth patterns in where and why these drone operations are conducted across the Big Apple. The findings promise a fascinating glimpse into the intersection of cutting-edge technology and urban law enforcement.

Mayor Eric Adams stated, “New York City, we're flying into the future and we're going to see that in our presentation today, using drones to make city service faster and safer, and likely saving taxpayers' dollars in the process. There's been a lot of buzz, so let me be clear, drones are proven technology, and they're being used every day. And the City of New York cannot lead from the rear, we must lead from the front.” He emphasized the role of drones in making city services more efficient and safe.

Eric Adams Mayor Of New York City Is A Strong Proponent Of Nypd Drone Use In Nyc.

Decoding NYPD's Drone Missions: A Comprehensive Overview

In its quest to enhance urban safety and efficiency, the NYPD meticulously categorizes an array of drone missions within its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Report. These missions encompass a wide spectrum of activities, each playing a vital role in the city's law enforcement strategy:

  • Collision / Crime Scene Documentation: Providing aerial insights into accidents and crime scenes
  • Evidence Searches: Exploring extensive or hard-to-reach areas for crucial evidence
  • Hazardous Material Incidents: Tackling potential chemical threats from a safe distance
  • Traffic and Crowd Monitoring: Overseeing large gatherings and traffic flow during significant events
  • Public Safety and Emergencies: Responding to urgent situations under the direct approval of the Chief of Department
  • Rooftop Security Observations: Strategic surveillance during high-risk events like shootings
  • Search and Rescue Operations: Locating missing persons or navigating disaster-stricken areas
  • Testing and Training: Continuously honing operational readiness and testing new capabilities
  • Hostage and Barricaded Suspect Assistance: Providing critical visual support in tense standoff situations
  • Warrant Execution Support: Assisting in the safe and effective execution of warrants

Each category demonstrates the NYPD's commitment to leveraging advanced technology to ensure the safety and well-being of New York City's residents and visitors.

Addressing concerns, Mayor Adams noted, “And they [drone pilots] would need to follow rules designed to protect New Yorkers' safety, privacy and quality of life. We are very conscious of the safety aspect and the privacy aspect, because we need to use technology, I say over and over again, and not abuse it.”​

NYPD's Drone Operations: A Deep Dive into Five Years of Data

In an exhaustive analysis, we've consolidated all NYPD drone operation reports from 2019 through September 2023 into a comprehensive dataset. Employing pivot tables, we embarked on a journey to uncover evolving trends in drone usage over time.

Our findings paint a detailed portrait of the NYPD's growing reliance on . Since 2019, the NYPD has deployed drones 812 times across New York City, marking a significant integration of this advanced technology in urban law enforcement.

This data not only reflects operational frequency but also provides a window into the ever-changing landscape of policing in one of the world's most dynamic cities.

Elevating Urban Policing: NYPD's Advanced Drone Fleet

In December 2018, the NYPD unveiled its exclusive use of drones from the Chinese manufacturer DJI, a leading name in drone technology. Initially, the NYPD drone fleet comprised 14 drones, predominantly the Series, known for its swift deployment in tactical operations.

NYPD Drones (2018)QuantityKey Benefits
DJI Mavic Pro quadcopter11Quick deployable small drone for tactical operations
DJI M210 RTK quadcopter2arger, weather resistant drone with 30x zoom camera and thermal imaging capabilities, 3d mapping, search & rescue.
DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter1Used for training and testing purposes

Fast forward to 2022, the NYPD's drone arsenal has evolved, incorporating advanced models like the M1X, DJI Matrice 210 RTK, DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, , DJI Mavic Mini, Ghost 60 UAV, X2, , Cine, DJI Matrice 300 RTK.

This expansion underscores the department's commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology in safeguarding New York City.

“To safeguard our modern city in a forward-looking world, it is essential to explore ways technology can support the NYPD's mission,” a police spokesperson told the NY Post.

Despite not having a recent comprehensive list of NYPD drones, evidence suggests a continued reliance on DJI models, with exploration into alternative UAS from Blue White Robotics and Easy Aerial.

The summer of 2023 marked a significant milestone with the NYPD's order of Lemur 2 quadcopters, state-of-the-art aircraft equipped with thermal imaging and night vision, poised to revolutionize SWAT operations.

The NYPD's investment in drone technology goes beyond acquisition, with notable expenditures on accessories and operational costs. However, specifics on the number and capabilities of these drones remain undisclosed, highlighting a layer of operational secrecy essential in modern urban policing.

Following the relaxation of drone usage regulations in New York City this summer, the NYPD's deployment of drones has experienced a significant surge.

The NYPD has recently placed an order for two Brinc Lemur 2 quadcopters, sophisticated aircraft equipped with thermal imaging and night vision, intended for frontline SWAT operations.

The cost for these drones, as per city records, stands at $87,747, according to the NY Post. Additionally, the department has incurred expenses of $108,000 on various accessories and operational costs recently.

A further expenditure of $95,000 on drones and vehicles was recorded on July 11, although specifics of this purchase remain unclear. Queries regarding the quantity, features, and intended use of these newly acquired drones went unanswered by the NYPD.

The NYPD's journey from its initial adoption of 14 DJI drones in 2018 to the recent procurement of state-of-the-art Brinc Lemur 2 quadcopters in 2023 illustrates a dynamic and forward-thinking approach to law enforcement.

NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry, responsible for the department's advanced technology, envisions a future where drones play a vital role in lifesaving missions. According to The Gothamist, he anticipates using them for delivering flotation devices to swimmers in distress and administering Narcan to individuals suffering from drug-related emergencies. Additionally, Daughtry is exploring the possibility of deploying drones in response to certain criminal incidents.

Chinese DJI Drones Power Against Shark Attacks in New York
New York coastlines will see an influx of advanced shark-monitoring Chinese DJI drones following a recent series of shark attacks. Drone in the photo appears to be a DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. Photo credit: AP.

With continuous advancements and expansions in its drone fleet, the department demonstrates a commitment to harnessing innovative technologies for urban safety.

While details about the fleet's exact composition and operational specifics remain undisclosed, the NYPD's substantial investment in drones signals a new era in policing, marked by enhanced capabilities and strategic use of aerial surveillance to address the complex challenges of safeguarding New York City.

Overview of NYPD Drone Deployments

Since 2019, NYPD's usage of drones has reached a notable count of 812 deployments across New York City, showcasing the substantial role of this technology in contemporary urban policing.

Out of these, 321 missions were dedicated to training, with a significant portion—nearly 300—occurring in Queens. This coincides with the location of the NYPD Police Academy in Queens, suggesting it as a likely hub for comprehensive drone training for officers from various boroughs.

The NYPD's drone operations, primarily managed by the Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU), encompass a range of critical tasks, including search and rescue, crime scene access, and emergency response.

The Police Academy, with its state-of-the-art facilities, although not explicitly confirmed, emerges as a plausible site for this advanced training, aligning with the NYPD's commitment to safety, efficiency, and cutting-edge operational preparedness.

NYPD's Drone Operations Across the Boroughs

Since 2019, the New York Police Department's (NYPD) deployment of drones has been robust and strategic, with 812 flights recorded up to the third quarter of 2023. Out of these, 321 were dedicated to training, underscoring a commitment to operational readiness. This leaves a significant 491 operations for various tactical and surveillance purposes.

An analysis of the NYPD's drone use across different boroughs reveals striking trends. Notably, in boroughs like the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, there has been a noticeable uptick in drone operations starting in the second quarter of 2023.

This surge aligns with the relaxation of drone restrictions by Mayor Eric Adams, indicating a new era of flexibility and expanded use of this technology in law enforcement.

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart shows the cumulative drone operations conducted across various boroughs of New York City for every quarter.

Queens, known for the NYPD Police Academy, has consistently shown high drone activity, likely due to numerous training sessions. By the summer of 2023, Brooklyn experienced a significant surge in drone operations, a trend that was subsequently mirrored in the Bronx and Staten Island.

The data invites a closer look at how each borough has uniquely integrated drones into their local policing strategies.

NYPD Drone Operations in Brooklyn

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the number of each type of drone operation over time in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Each line represents a different type of operation, with the data points indicating the number of operations in each quarter.

NYPD Drone Operations in the Bronx

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the number of each type of drone operation over time in the Bronx borough of New York City. Each line represents a different type of operation, with the data points indicating the number of operations in each quarter.

NYPD Drone Operations in Manhattan

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the number of each type of drone operation over time in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Each line represents a different type of operation, with the data points indicating the number of operations in each quarter.

NYPD Drone Operations in Queens

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the number of each type of drone operation over time in the Queens borough of New York City. Each line represents a different type of operation, with the data points indicating the number of operations in each quarter.

Beyond the regular drone training missions in Queens, there's a marked rise in missions categorized as “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department.” This trend points to either a novel application or a significant intensification of drone usage for these specific scenarios by the NYPD in 2023.

NYPD Drone Operations in Staten Island

NYPD's Drone Usage Soars: A Closer Look at the Sky-High Surveillance
The chart depicts the number of each type of drone operation over time in the Staten Island borough of New York City. Each line represents a different type of operation, with the data points indicating the number of operations in each quarter.

Delving Further into NYPD's Drone Operations

Between January 1st and the end of September, the NYPD deployed their on 404 occasions. Of these, 87 instances were dedicated to testing or training with the drones.

Notably, 263 of these missions (accounting for 65% of the total) were conducted for “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department.”

Type of NYPD Drone Operation in NYC20192020202120222023
Collision / Crime Scene Documentation1651185
Evidence searches at large or inaccessible scenes87512
Hazardous material incidents00000
Monitoring vehicular traffic and pedestrian congestion at large scale events112369
Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief0005263
Rooftop security observation at shootings or large scale events00006
Search and rescue operations011112
Testing1011268
Training6337469679
Visual assistance at hostage/barricaded suspect situations91561012
Warrant20138

Analyzing the data provided on drone operations in New York City over several years, several key insights can be derived:

Fastest Growing Types of Drone Missions:

The category “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” showed a significant increase, particularly in 2023, suggesting a growing reliance on drones for public safety and emergency situations.

“Training” missions consistently had high numbers, indicating ongoing efforts to enhance drone operation skills, which could be linked to the overall increase in drone use across various categories.

NYPD Drone Operations Highlights

Analyzing the data across all boroughs in New York City, a few overarching trends and observations become evident:

Overall Increase in Drone Usage: Across all boroughs, there's a clear trend of increasing drone operation numbers over the years. This suggests a city-wide adoption and growing reliance on drone technology for various purposes.

Dominance of Certain Operation Types: Some types of operations, like “Training” and “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department,” have consistently high numbers across most boroughs. This indicates a city-wide focus on these areas.

Spike in Public Safety and Emergency Operations: In 2023, there's a significant spike in “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” operations across several boroughs, particularly in Brooklyn. This could reflect a policy change, a response to specific events, or an increased capability in drone technology.

Consistent Presence of Training Operations: The consistent presence of training operations across all boroughs every year underlines a city-wide emphasis on skill development and readiness in drone operations. Queens exhibited high activity over the years, particularly in “Training” and “Evidence searches at large or inaccessible scenes.”

Varied Use Across Boroughs: While there's an overall increase in drone usage, the type and volume of operations vary by borough, reflecting the unique needs and characteristics of each area.

Low or No Use in Certain Categories: Categories like “Hazardous material incidents” show very low or no usage across all boroughs, possibly indicating either a lack of necessity for drones in these scenarios or the effectiveness of other methods.

Yearly Progression and Adaptation: The data shows a progression in drone usage, suggesting an adaptation to the technology and its integration into various city operations.

Missions like “Monitoring vehicular traffic and pedestrian congestion at large scale events” and “Visual assistance at hostage/barricaded suspect situations” were consistently present, indicating their regular use in city management and law enforcement.

Eric Adams Mayor of New York City is a strong proponent of NYPD drone use

A general upward trend in drone usage is noticeable, with a notable spike in 2023. This could be attributed to increased adoption of drone technology, changes in city policies, or evolving operational needs.

In conclusion, the data reveals a clear growth in the use of drones across various operational categories, with significant spikes in specific types of missions and in certain boroughs. The data indicates an increasing integration of drone technology in urban management, public safety, and emergency response in New York City.

Surge in NYPD's Drone Missions: A Focus on Public Safety and Emergency Response

The growth of “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” drone missions in New York City is quite remarkable, particularly in 2023.

This category saw a substantial increase in drone missions, as indicated by the data:

  • In 2019, 2020, and 2021, there were no drone missions recorded under this category.
  • In 2022, there were 5 drone missions, marking the commencement of its use.
  • The year 2023 witnessed a significant rise to 263 drone missions.

This dramatic increase from 5 missions in 2022 to 263 in 2023 underscores a pivotal shift in the NYPD's utilization of drone technology, particularly in situations requiring rapid and effective responses for public safety and emergencies.

The reasons behind this surge could be manifold, ranging from an expansion in drone capabilities and fleet size to a broader acceptance and integration of drone technology in police operations.

It also reflects the NYPD's evolving strategy in harnessing cutting-edge technology to enhance public safety, manage emergencies more efficiently, and ensure a rapid response to critical situations across the city.

“This is a local police department that increasingly acts like a national intelligence agency. The idea that you can have a drone hovering over a protest, collecting the identities of every person there, without any oversight, without any protections? That's unbelievably chilling,” said Albert Fox Cahn, the founder and executive director of Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, according to The Gothamist.

All 5 years

Over the entire period, the distribution of “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” drone missions across the boroughs of New York City was as follows:

  • Brooklyn: A total of 153 missions, accounting for approximately 74% of all drone missions in the borough
  • Queens: There were 37 missions, making up about 9% of the missions
  • Bronx: With 36 missions, representing around 44%
  • Staten Island: Contributed 27 missions, or 51% of the total
  • Manhattan: Recorded 15 missions, constituting nearly 23%

Focusing on 2023

In 2023, the distribution of “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” drone missions across the boroughs of New York City was as follows:

  • Brooklyn: A total of 150 missions, accounting for approximately 85% of all drone missions in the borough
  • Queens: There were 37 missions, making up about 29% of the missions
  • Bronx: With 36 missions, representing around 86%
  • Staten Island: Contributed 27 missions, or 90% of the total
  • Manhattan: Recorded 13 missions, constituting nearly 45%

Brooklyn stands out as the top borough for NYPD drone missions in the “Public safety, emergency, or other situation with the approval of the Chief of Department” category, recording 150 flights in 2023, not including training and testing operations.

This significant concentration of drone missions in Brooklyn could be indicative of the specific operational needs or the strategic focus of the NYPD in this borough.

“[Drones] don't really give anything other than a different vantage point. The police have cameras on poles and on top of cars everywhere anyway,” said Adam Scott Wandt, vice chair for technology of the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “You should be expecting the government to be taking pictures of you from every angle.”

It should be noted that the NYPD erases drone footage within 30 days, except in cases where it's retained for ongoing criminal investigations.

The Future of Policing: A Skyward Perspective

The data from the past few years reveal a clear trajectory towards an increased, diversified, and more strategic use of drones by the NYPD.

Drones are not just tools for surveillance; they are becoming critical assets in emergency response, public safety, and tactical operations.

Mayor Eric Adams advocates for the use of police drones, highlighting their cost-effectiveness for the city. He compares the high cost of operating an NYPD helicopter, which can reach up to $2,200 per flight, to the mere 17 cents it costs to deploy a drone.

Brooklyn's unparalleled increase in drone use for public safety, the nuanced application in Queens and Manhattan, and the evolving training practices indicate a future where drones are an essential part of urban policing.

Statue of Liberty New York City by Ralph
Statue of Liberty in the Harbor of New York City. Courtesy of Ralph.

As technology continues to advance, we can expect these trends to not only continue but accelerate, heralding a new era in law enforcement that takes to the skies to keep the city safe.

The NYPD's drone program is a vivid example of how technology can enhance public safety in one of the world's most dynamic urban landscapes.

As drones continue to soar above the city's iconic skyline, they mark the dawn of a new chapter in policing – one that's watched from above, with a bird's eye view of the safety and complexities of urban life.


Discover more from DroneXL

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Get your Part 107 Certificate

Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.

pilot institute dronexl

Copyright © DroneXL.co 2024. All rights reserved. The content, images, and intellectual property on this website are protected by copyright law. Reproduction or distribution of any material without prior written permission from DroneXL.co is strictly prohibited. For permissions and inquiries, please contact us first.

FTC: DroneXL.co is an Amazon Associate and uses affiliate links that can generate income from qualifying purchases. We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email.

Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

Articles: 3430

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.