NYPD to fly rescue drones over city beaches this summer

The New York City Police Department plans to equip aerial drones with floatation devices to help swimmers in distress.
coney island beach
(Getty Images)

The New York City Police Department shared plans on Friday to begin expanding its drone program by operating over city beaches this summer unmanned aircraft that can drop flotation devices to help swimmers in distress.

The news, shared during a video demonstration posted online Friday by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry follows a promise made by New York City Mayor Eric Adams last fall to make the city a “leader” in drone technology. Daughtry said during the video demonstration that while the NYPD’s drone program is “in its infancy stages,” the department’s goal is to operate the aircraft for “public safety and beach safety.”

The drones, which Daughtry said will be flying up and down New York City beaches this summer, will each be equipped with a flotation device that drone operators can release by pressing a button. The flotation devices inflate upon contact with water, he added.

During a press conference with his deputy mayors on Tuesday, Adams said the drones will first be deployed over the Coney Island beaches before further expansion. Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi added that the police department will work with the Parks Department and its lifeguards to communicate during water rescue emergencies.


While New York has expanded drone operations for several purposes, including a program launched last summer to monitor for shark activity on Long Island, New York City and its police department’s use of drones and other surveillance technologies have drawn ire. Last Labor Day weekend, the department announced it would deploy drones instead of police officers in response to complaints about large gatherings, including private events in backyards. Among other privacy activists, a senior strategist for the New York Civil Liberties Union said the practice was discriminatory and potentially unconstitutional.

In December, NYPD faced scrutiny from New York City council members over compliance with the 2020 Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act, a municipal surveillance technology transparency law.

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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