The New York Police Department announced an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) program, operated by licensed officers in its Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU). Currently, the program consists of 14 drones, including 11 small drones for tactical operations, two larger weather-resistant drones for thermal imaging and search and rescue, and one non-enterprise model used for training purposes.
Acceptable uses for the fleet of drones are:
- Search and rescues
- Collision and crime scene documentation
- Evidence searches at large or inaccessible locations
- HAZMAT incidents
- Traffic and pedestrian monitoring at large events
- Assistance at hostage/barricaded situations
Other emergency situations may allow for the use of drones, with approval from the department chief. Routine patrol, traffic enforcement, immobilizing vehicles of suspects, and search without a warrant are all listed as unacceptable uses. In a statement, NYPD emphasized that its drones will never be used as a weapon or equipped with a weapon.
TARU provides specialized investigative equipment and tactical support to all NYPD bureaus, with an expertise in audio/visual technology. This knowledge allows the unit to recover surveillance video footage, record police action at large-scale demonstrations and arrest situations, and provide crucial live video to incident commanders during ongoing emergency situations.
According to a release from NYPD, there are more than 900 state and local police, fire, and emergency units with UAVs. During the NYPD's research and development stage, NYPD officials met with other police departments to learn about their programs.