Congressional Leaders Question NYPD’s Use of Chinese-Made Drones

Congress is concerned about the New York Police Department's (NYPD) plan to use Chinese-made drones to assist in responding to gunfire in high-crime areas.

Congress is concerned about the Department's (NYPD) plan to use Chinese-made drones to assist in responding to gunfire in high-crime areas. The new program is currently being tested and involves pairing drones with ShotSpotter technology, reports The Record.

NYPD's Drone Strategy

The NYPD is testing a new program that pairs drones with ShotSpotter technology, which detects gunshots and sends location data to drone stations. Kaz Daughtry, NYPD's deputy commissioner of operations, explained this plan to the House Homeland Security Committee. While the NYPD aims to phase out Chinese-made drones, Daughtry defended their current use, citing their effectiveness and affordability compared to American-made drones.

Congressional Concerns

Several Congress members expressed concerns about using drones from Shenzhen DJI Innovation Technology (DJI), a major Chinese supplier. The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned earlier this year that these drones pose significant risks to critical infrastructure. Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) highlighted the national security concerns, noting that the extensive deployment of Chinese drones could lead to unauthorized access to sensitive systems and data.

Daughtry informed Congress that although the NYPD plans to start purchasing drones from American manufacturers, he has personally reached out to the CEOs of leading U.S. to convey that DJI drones “perform better than your drones.”

NYPD's Defense of DJI Drones

Daughtry stated that while the NYPD plans to purchase American-made drones, DJI drones currently outperform U.S. counterparts. He emphasized their capabilities and cost-effectiveness, which are crucial for protecting lives.

“They have capabilities that locals can't offer on that cost-by-cost basis and we're talking about a weapon or a tool that our frontliners need to protect our lives,” Daughtry said.

Implementation Details

The NYPD's plan involves linking drones to ShotSpotter, which will detect gunshots and send the location data to drone stations in five selected precincts in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Central Park. Daughtry described how an alert will be sent to a drone pilot at the NYPD's Joint Operations Center, who will then deploy the drone to the location. Officers will receive a live visual feed from the drone on their smartphones before arriving at the scene. Each precinct will have two drone platforms attached to rooftops.

Community Concerns

The use of ShotSpotter technology combined with drones has faced criticism. Civil liberties advocates and community leaders argue that ShotSpotter is unreliable and contributes to racially biased policing. According to a July 2023 report from the ACLU, over 1,400 U.S. police departments use drones, with Chula Vista, being the first to implement a similar program in 2019. The report suggests that more cities will adopt this technology, despite concerns.

Recent Uses of Drones by NYPD

Drones have been crucial in recent NYPD operations. For example, they played a key role in responding to a student protest at Columbia University. John Chell, the NYPD's chief of patrol, noted that drones enhance officer situational awareness and safety, allowing for more effective resource deployment.

The NYPD's fleet of 85 drones covers 6,300 miles of streets and highways, 472 subway stations, and 274 public housing developments. Drone usage increased by 420% from 2022 to 2023. Daughtry clarified that these drones are not used for warrantless surveillance, routine patrol, traffic enforcement, or immobilizing suspect vehicles, and are not equipped with weapons.

DroneXL's Take

The NYPD's use of DJI drones highlights the ongoing debate about national security versus operational efficiency. While concerns about and potential misuse persist, the superior performance and cost-effectiveness of DJI drones cannot be ignored.

As continues to evolve, balancing these factors will be crucial for law enforcement agencies across the U.S. The integration of drones with technologies like ShotSpotter could significantly enhance public safety, provided that privacy and civil liberties are adequately protected.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, 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 @ or @hayekesteloo.

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