In brief: The New York City Police Department recently added a number of remote-controlled drones to its box of tools. The high-tech copters will be used tonight to spot illegal activities at the annual ball drop in Times Square. The deployment marks the first official use of the drones since purchasing them in early December.
The New York City Police Department is pulling out all the stops at this year’s Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop to keep party-goers safe. In addition to 7,000 officers, 1,200 fixed cameras, bomb-sniffing dogs, and 200 sand-filled blocker trucks, NYPD will be flying a drone over the crowd to watch out for criminal activity.
According to the Associated Press, the quadcopter will be controlled from a base station and the trained operator will be able to radio nearby units if he spots any illegal activity, which will include anyone drinking or possessing alcohol in the restricted area. The drone is equipped with a powerful zoom lens to allow it to fly high enough above the crowds that it will not be readily visible from the ground.
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that there are no known credible threats for this year’s event, but that large numbers of patrols and other precautions are standard protocol every year. However, this is the first year the department will be deploying an unmanned vehicle.
“[We] must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology,” said O’Neill earlier this month in an announcement that the department had acquired 14 of the state-of-the-art drones.
In addition to the high-quality camera, the drone is also capable of thermal imaging and 3D mapping of an area. The commissioner also said they would be on the lookout for unauthorized drones flying over the event.
As a safety precaution, the craft will be tethered to a building so that in the event of a malfunction, it will not crash into the crowd. Officials estimate that more than 2 million people will be attending the New Year's celebration this year.