New York State Police in Town of Wallkill Get Their First Drones

The Upstate town has officially received its UAVs and its drone implementation program is off to a good start.

RecordOnline / Heather Yakin

Earlier this month, we reported on New York State’s drone implementation plans for the year, which consist of allocating 18 unmanned aerial vehicles to law enforcement across the state by April. In a fairly impressive timeframe, New York has gone from Governor Cuomo (D-NY) being eager to foster "the most advanced drone testing in the country" last October, to an agreement of issuing 18 UAVs to state authorities earlier this month, to the drones actually being allocated and used by law enforcement. Hats off.

According to Times Herald-Record, New York State police intend to use this new tool to monitor traffic, search for missing persons, as well capture footage of a crime scene without the need for the more expensive, traditional helicopter counterpart.

According to Captain Scott Reichel, these drones had already proven their mettle upstate, in New York State’s Troop D group of drone-using law enforcement officials, when river conditions had to be monitored aerially due to fears of potential flooding and ice dams. Traditionally, this would require a helicopter, which costs far more, takes a lot longer to secure and schedule, and frankly, is generally less practical than a drone for the basic need of a bird’s-eye view.

The 18 drones were donated by the New York State Trooper Foundation, save for two which were purchased with agency money, according to Times Herald-Record. The foundation is a non-profit responsible for assisting public education, police training, and technology. Each troop is allocated two drones, and apparently, one trooper in Troop A, D, F, and G have already been trained to pilot the UAVs. As we reported earlier this month, an extensive 32-hour Federa Aviation Administration-certifying training is required of each officer interested in piloting. 

Here's last week's official New York State Police drone announcement, courtesy of Times Herald-Record.

According to Reichel, the funds allocated to New York State's drone program total $120,000, which comes to around $7,000 per unit. This is a definite improvement to the reliance on helicopters, which, according to Lieutenant Beau Duffy, can cost the police up to $1,500 per hour. 

Watch the state police in Wallkill test their new drones in the parking lot. 

Naturally, the police are adamant that these new aerial tools won't be used to violate anyone's privacy or civil liberties, and that their focus, traffic, emergencies, and crime won't shift anytime soon. "Our goal is not to intrude on anybody’s personal privacy,” Reichel explained. “We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that everything we do operationally is done in conjunction with preserving people’s privacy and upholding the law." 

Of course, it's up to citizens to hold their police forces accountable for any potential wrongdoing. Right now, these drones are simply tools. We should all do our best to make sure they're used to better the world, and not violate any collective agreements of ours. Stay tuned.