The New York Police Department (NYPD) was forced to abandon plans to deploy drones during the 2019 New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square. The cancellation was caused by extreme weather that included both strong winds and heavy rain. In the days before the celebrations, the NYPD had announced plans to deploy a drone as part of its security preparations. The New Year’s Eve celebrations normally sees one of the heaviest security undertakings conducted in New York City. There are normally thousands of Police officers, equipped with bomb-sniffing dogs, metal-sensing hand wands, with over 1,200 fixed cameras.
This time the NYPD was supposed to receive extra support from a remote-controlled drone. This drone was intended to provide a mobile camera to fly over the people and give the Police the ability to watch over the huge crowd. Under normal circumstances, the overhead fly-bys are usually conducted using helicopters. The drones were selected because they have the capacity to get much closer to the crowd than helicopters. The NYPD has drones which are equipped with powerful cameras. The drone cameras are also equipped with thermal imaging and 3D mapping technology.
These drones are part of the NYPD’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) which is a new program recently unveiled in December 2018. The drones are supposed to help the NYPD in a number of situations including search and rescue, providing access to inaccessible crime scenes, and even during hostage situations. The 2019 New Year’s Eve celebration was supposed to be the first deployment of drones in Times Square. On top of its own drones, the NYPD had also deployed counter-drone technology. This was supposed to prevent unauthorized drones from flying over Times Square during the New Year’s celebration.
The initial plan was to have the NYPD drone operating around Times Square which was supposed to be tethered to a building (to avoid any injuries in case it accidentally fell from the sky). It would then rapidly fly into any point in the crowd where the NYPD felt the need to take a closer look. As part of the celebrations, the drone was supposed to fly in a cordoned off area shortly before the confetti was released. However, the entire plan was abandoned due to the extreme weather. The announcement of the cancellation was made a few hours before the celebrations started after weather forecasts predicted rain and heavy winds in which the NYPD Chief announced the cancellation via Twitter.