NYPD testing drones for public safety messaging during weather emergencies

The NYPD is testing drones capable of making public addresses during weather emergencies.
File Photo by Dean Moses

The NYPD is testing new drones capable of making public addresses over city neighborhoods, which they say will enable effective messaging to the public during weather emergencies.

The department conducted the tests on Sunday at Hook Creek Park in Queens, adjacent to John F. Kennedy International Airport, a police spokesperson confirmed.

The drones are capable of transmitting audio messages, which the department says can be deployed during dangerous weather or other emergencies. For instance, the drones could be flown over a neighborhood experiencing flooding, as much of New York City experienced on Sunday, where a message could be broadcast to the denizens below to stay indoors and avoid deluged areas.

The police spokesperson said the drones were being tested on Sunday ahead of more flooding expected to hit the city later this week. The NYPD rep would not share the results of the test.

Earlier Sunday, NYC Emergency Management tweeted that the Police Department would be testing “remote-piloted public messaging capabilities” but didn’t specify that they were drones.

More efficient public messaging could potentially be the difference between life and death during extreme weather events. During last week’s flooding in the Hudson Valley, a 43-year-old Orange County woman died after being swept away in floodwaters when her house was hit by boulders. Eleven people died in flooded basement apartments during Hurricane Ida in 2021.

The department owns more than a dozen drones, many of which are used for surveillance purposes. Mayor Eric Adams has described himself as a “tech geek” and has embraced new police surveillance tech, like the DigiDog and the K-5 autonomous robot patrolling the Times Square subway station.

But the NYPD Inspector General has accused the agency of violating the 2021 POST Act by introducing new surveillance tech without first undertaking a public engagement process, a claim the NYPD has contested.

Additional reporting by Dean Moses