Evidence that New York City is considering using drones to keep an eye on its citizens is growing, according to Don Dahler of New York’s CBS Channel 2. Dahler quoted an email it obtained indicating that a detective in the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism division asked the Federal Aviation Administration “about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] as a law enforcement tool.”
Dahler noted that NYPD commissioner Joe Kelly suggested that drones would be useful: “In an extreme situation, you would [then] have some means to take down a plane.” A spokesman for the NYPD admitted that “We’re always looking at technology. Drones aren’t that exotic anymore. Brookstone sells them. We’ve looked at them but haven’t tested or deployed any [yet].”
A retired officer from the department said that the use of drones would help protect the police from physical danger: “Not only would it be a form of surveillance gathering to protect the public, it also in many respects removes the officers … from harm’s way.”
UAVs, or drones, have benefitted enormously from advances in technology. Increasingly used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to target terrorists, drones can take photographs of license plates and citizens’ faces from elevations of 10,000 feet. They are essentially silent and can be maneuvered by the operator located miles away in a small government cubicle.
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Photo: Predator drone (top) and drone command center (bottom).